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How to Pick Peaches

How to Pick Peaches

If you live in the mid-Midwest, one of the summer highlights is peach picking.  It is a fun activity for the whole family, young and old alike!  Unless you know what you are doing, you might not pick the right peaches for your purpose.  It's hard to tell when they are ready for eating, ready for storage, and ready for cooking.  I wanted to offer my knowledge of how to pick peaches to help you get the right peaches when you need them.

How to Tell When Peaches Are Ready to Pick

  1.  Find the best place to get local peaches. There are many types of peaches and the ones that grow best in your area are the ones you want to pick.  In our area, we want Calhoun peaches, which are grown between the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.  
  2. Look for vibrant colors.  Ripe peaches have bright colors to show they are ready to pick (and eat.)  Most will also have a nice full ripe sweet peach aroma to them as well, but don't let that fool you into thinking the peach is ready to eat. You must have a vibrant color as well.  So if you want peaches for next week's pie, pick peaches with an aroma, but whose colors are not vibrant.
  3. Squeeze the neck (where the stem is.)  Ready to eat peaches give a little.  If it is firm, this peach is good for waiting and maybe for a salad, as they hold up well when you toss them.  If you want next week's peaches, then look for a tiny bit of give but overall seem firm.
  4. Taste them if there is an opportunity to do so!  Several peach growers will cut up their fruit so you can try them out. Be sure to ask the growers for their advice on picking the right peach, too. They know their fruit better than anyone!

Special Tips for Picking Peaches

  1. Store at room temperature. 
  2. Store with the stem upside down.
  3. Store in a single layer.
  4. If peaches are ready for eating now, store them in the refrigerator.  Watch carefully, when they wrinkle they are starting to dry out.
  5. If you are picking them off the tree, grab the peach gently, and give them a slight twist. It should come off easily. If it doesn't the peach may not be ripe enough yet.
  6. Ripe peaches bruise easily, just be gentle and don't worry, bruises don't always mean the fruit is bad.
  7. If you get a bunch of unripe peaches that you need soon, place peaches into a brown paper bag for up to three days.  It's best if the peaches ripen on the tree, but this is a good substitute.

Preserving Peaches

To keep that summer goodness all year round, you will probably want to preserve some peaches.  I like to make them into peach butter and freeze them.  You can also can, make them into jams, jellies and preserves.

A lot of people like to can peaches in glass jars.  Canning is a process that must be done properly in order to safely preserve them.  I don't can, but you can get good directions on Google.  Check your source!

Freezing is my favorite way to preserve peaches. Slice them up.  Place them on a cookie sheet in the freezer, then when fully frozen, store them in a ziplock bag. You can use them frozen in a smoothie or thaw them and bake them into a pie!

Peach butter is another favorite way to preserve peaches. I use six cups of sliced peaches and 1/4 cup of sugar.  I add one teaspoon of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and a splash of vanilla.  Cook everything in a pot together for about 30 minutes.  You don't need to peel the peaches, but I do pit them.  After cooking, use an immersion blender to blend to a smooth consistency.  My husband likes to have a few chunks of peaches left in his.  If you use a regular blender, I suggest that you cool the peaches fully before blending.  It's a safety thing.  Place in jars and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

My Favorite Ways to Use Summer Peaches

Make Peach Iced Tea.  The tea needs no additional sugar unless you like your tea really sweet.  This is so refreshing and can be made in advance.

There's nothing better than a fresh peach daiquiri.  I rarely see these "in the wild" so I make them at home when the peaches are perfect!

Another cocktail favorite is the simple goodness of a Peach Vodka Tonic.  This light and refreshing drink is a favorite "front porch sitter."

My favorite summer dessert, in addition to Strawberry Shortcake, is Grilled Peaches and Ice Cream.  The hot and cold, sweet and sweeter, is a combination that cannot be missed!

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