Hey, I'm Desmond Layne, Peach Specialist at Clemson University. Welcome to the Clemson Tiger Peach Network.
Welcome to Everything About Peaches! Our first episode is "How To Pick the Best Peach." There are basically three different places where you can buy fresh peaches: your local peach orchard, your local roadside stand or farmers' market, or a grocery chain store near you. To ensure an excellent eating experience, today we will provide you some tips on how to select the best peach.
If fresh peaches are grown in your area, some farms will allow you to pick your own. When you approach a tree, you should look for fruit that are well exposed to the sun. These will typically be found on the periphery of the tree. Here peaches are generally more mature, larger, have better color, and have a higher sugar content. By contrast, fruit on the lower interior part of the tree are less exposed to the sunlight and, therefore, are less mature, smaller, have poorer color, and have a lower sugar content. I'll give you an example. Now it is possible for some of the fruit on the tree to be overripe. This is an overripe peach, technically called squish. Overripe peaches are undesirable. When you find an attractive looking peach on the periphery of the tree, what you should do is give it a gentle squeeze. And if it gives a little to your squeeze, then you probably have the peach that you want. Check out the comparison in size and color from this peach on the periphery of the tree as compared to this one from the lower interior part of the tree. Now let's taste this one and see how it is. Now that's a good peach! Sweet, juicy, if I was to eat some more it would be dripping off my elbows. That's what you're looking for.
Fruit at the local roadside stand or farmers' market are tree-ripened. The farmer has already put his best peaches in the basket. The real decision is which cultivar to choose. Many farmers will let you actually taste the fruit, and then you can decide which cultivar you like the best.
Now if you don't have access to fresh local peaches, don't despair, you do have one other alternative: the grocery chain store. Now tree-ripened fruit is too soft to be shipped long distances, so the first thing you should do when you get to your grocery chain store is find out where the fruit came from. If it's not exactly clear, you should ask someone in the produce department. Generally, the farther away fruit was shipped, the less mature it was at the time it was picked. For example, fruit coming from Chile could have been picked as many as three weeks ago, while fruit coming from California to the East coast could have been picked one to two weeks earlier, while fruit coming from South Carolina to local stores could have been picked three to five days ago. The last thing you need to keep in mind is that you should not be fooled by a fruit with large size and a deep color. What you should do is pick up a fruit and smell it, and if it gives off a nice aroma and it gives gently to your squeeze, then you should select a small quantity and take them home. If you enjoy them, then you can come back and get more.
To recap, your best eating experience is going to be with tree-ripened peaches that you pick yourself or that were picked within the last twenty-four hours by the commercial grower. If you don't have access to local tree-ripened peaches, don't despair. When you visit your local grocery chain store, first of all, find out where those peaches came from. The further they came, the less mature they probably were when they were harvested. So try and choose fruit that were picked fairly close to where you live. That way they would have been more mature and you will have a better eating experience.
For more information on peaches, you can view my Clemson peach website at www.clemson.edu/hort/peach. And to read my regular peach columns for the American Fruit Grower magazine, visit their website at www.growingproduce.com.