Sometimes when I go to buy peaches at the store, I am disappointed with their quality. It seems that they were not picked at the right stage of maturity. How does a grower decide when to pick peaches and what should I look for?

Answer: A grower may use a combination of several things to choose when to pick fruit: i. The historic ripe calendar date (when normally picked); ii. For cultivars that are not “solid red” in color at maturity, he will look at the change in background skin color from green to yellow/orange; iii. Size for market season – usually measured in inches of diameter; iv. Firmness measured as puncture pressure using a penetrometer; and v. Brix (i.e., sugar content) or soluble solids concentration of the extracted juice using a refractometer.  Some very sophisticated packing houses (i.e., Stemilt in Washington or Titan Farms in SC) now have in-line, near infrared (NIR) sensors that can detect peach sugar concentration nondestructively.  When looking at peaches in the grocery store, it is a good idea to determine where they came from.  Fruit that have traveled great distances need to be durable to survive the transport and have minimal bruising. These are often harvested before they are fully mature.  The most satisfying experience is to purchase tree-ripened fruit at roadside or farmer’s markets or when you “pick your own”.  Fruit at this optimal stage of maturity gives gently to your squeeze, has a strong peachy aroma, and should melt in your mouth. 

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