Every Time a Peach Is Bruised a Farmer Cries

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bruised peach

A quick press can leave a lasting and unpalatable impression

Peach Perfect

It’s no secret I love peaches–their rich flavor, succulent juice and heady perfume. I’m even starstruck (and foolish) enough to try to grow them in the maritime Pacific Northwest.  This year my eleven Peach Leaf Curl Resistant trees remain basically fruitless. I have a very wet spring and bees that prefer pollinating native Oregon grape, cottonwood, and wild cherry to thank.

Boz the bulldog begs for peachesBoz shares my sentiments about poorly handled fruit

So when I spend a big chunk of change buying peaches, only to have them morph into moldy spheres of mush days later, I become a very grumpy man who wants to stand by every produce case in America and lecture the clueless folks who squeeze them relentlessly before moving on to molest the nectarines and avocados. Squeezing peaches tells you nothing. It ruins the fruit and demeans a full year of hard work by the men and women who bust their keesters to grow and harvest some of nature’s finest fruit. Simply put, don’t do it.

Tough talk about firm fruit: Don’t press the peaches!

  1. Peaches will be firm at market 9 times out of 10
  2. Even a ripe peach can still be firm
  3. Instead select heavy peaches of rich color
  4. Peaches cannot be shipped totally ripe or they would be very bruised upon delivery
  5. A peach will ripen nicely off of the tree.
  6. Allow time for the fruit to ripen; you can’t rush it.
  7. Use your nose to determine ripeness, not your thumb.

The following link is a popular post of mine that shares the steps to ripening an unripe (and very firm) peach at home and it has nothing to do with a brown paper bag.

I bought these gems when they were rock hard, and let them ripen on their own schedule under cloth (which was about five days). If bruised at purchase, they would rot before ripening properly.

indian free peaches ripe and ready to eatIndian Free peaches from my trees: I pick them firm (in early October) and ripen them off the tree to beat fall rains, ravenous raccoons and squirrel gangs. It takes about a week, but the methods in the link above are simple and well worth it. Good luck! Now treat your peaches like slow food and you’ll be reward justly. And you better not let me catch you pressing your thumbs into peaches at the local Thriftway or I may have to return the favor (on behalf of bruised and rotting peaches everywhere).

47 COMMENTS

  1. Oh dear. I’m guilty of this. I’m sorry. I didn’t know. That was an excellent post on how to ripen them. Lesson learned. I shall not squeeze a peach from this day forward—I promise!
    🙂

  2. Couldn’t agree with you more. Those Indian Free peaches are beautiful. Have never seen anything like it. I suppose they are only available in some gardeners back yard. Enjoy the peaches.

  3. Tom, lesson learned…never again will I squeeze a peach! I love them too. The Indian Frees look amazing…never have seen such a beautiful looking peach. Although, our Okanagan makes some damn fine peaches, at least, the best I have ever had. Now I want peach jam, peach and blueberry pie…mercy!

  4. Tom, I found your blog a week or so ago specifically because someone posted your entry on how to ripen peaches. Down here in the Sonoran desert we used to get local Elegant Lady peaches in August, but the last few years the growers have disappeared. Just looking at your amazing photos of your (by comparison) lush and green surroundings makes my eyes water, and I set to day-dreaming …

  5. Wow, what a perfect title and great info. So just pick, carry home, and then ripen as needed. I needed all of this info, Tom–thanks! Now if I could just teach the cashier at the grocery store to handle my fruit delicately. After they sling one bag to the bagger, I always ask them to please gently move my produce and they always look at me like I’m a whack job. I don’t care much … I don’t want to pay for abused fruit.

    Shirley

  6. Oh dear. Guilty as charged. I’m now joining “Squeezer’s Anonymous”. Thanks for the tips on ripening the hard green little suckers we get down here in hell …uh Tucson.

  7. I love peaches so much that I took to pollinating my little trees (grown in planters on my front porch) by hand with a Q-tip. Worked like a charm!

    And I would never-ever-NEVER squeeze a peach!

  8. Thank you for making me feel better about my ‘Frost-free’ peach tree that has ONE lonely fruit this year; last year, – bumper crop on small tree.

    Do you have a recommendation on the best (new?) variety to ‘can’?

    I’m a new subscriber and really enjoy reading and learning from hour posts. (how to ripen peaches) ….and I’m NOT young. lol

  9. Great tip about the peaches – wonder if the grocery store would be interested in posting a little sign that informs shoppers about this too…

    There are lots of fruit & berries that will ripen quite nicely on the counter & I do that with my currants & other cane fruits in order to save them from the birds. It’s nice to have them handy for breakfast a day or 2 later!

  10. Amen…drives me crazy to see folks squeezing the veggies and disrobing the corn!

    I understand your pain, I live in SW Washington and had to take out my peach and apricot trees because they either got leaf curl (though being resistant varieties) or no fruit. Planted more apples instead!

    Great post, Kim

  11. As a Southern girl, I long for a Georgia peach picked up at the Farmer’s Market in Memphis. I long for a whole bushel of them in fact. I’d make peach cobbler, peach preserves and peach friend pies. Yep. I would if I could. I’ve tried the peaches here in the Pacific Northwest. Sad to say – they’re just not the same. But for now, all I have. So, I’ll still make some jam…

  12. I had no idea people were squeezing peaches, since my instinct with any fruit (except watermelon!) is to smell! Thanks Tom for the tutorial on ripening and hope you can eventually have your very own peaches in your backyard!

  13. I thought I gently felt the sides – but I now see that would be squeezing – they should provide signs in the stores. I actually did not know. So is that the same with nectarines? I have a type of pear that needs to be ripened under cool conditions. Thanks for the ripening tips.

  14. I visited my nearest supermarket early one morning to find the man in charge of the produce department throwing peaches against the wall ‘to ripen them’ !!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I didn’t buy any.
    Those red peaches look luscious, and I will never squeeze a peach again… xxx

  15. Tom,
    I couldn’t agree more with you. I see ppl constantly, mercilessly doing that to avocados, peaches, tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables at the markets and I really don’t get it. What does one really get out of it?
    Great post!
    Cheers,
    Hegs

  16. I live in Yellowkmife, waaaay northern Canada and all fruit has to travel well over a thousand miles. Tx so much for the good info and restoring faith that I met yet enjoy fruit properly ripened! (I read your other post about linen cloths above and below)

    • No kidding brion, who knew there was controversy in such things. Stay cool in Dallas my friend, I have no idea how you are standing it. This Pacific North Westerner would be a puddle of pudding about now.

  17. Just found your blog. I am so glad for your information about selecting peaches. I will handle with care in the grocery store, promise. Looking forward to being a faithful reader of your blog.

  18. Nom nom nom! We had peaches in our Bountiful Baskets haul this last Saturday. Just tried one of the peaches after following 3 days of your peach ripening wisdom. Wow! What a difference. Though not perfect…yet, I was too hasty, I can tell they will be perfect in another day or two. Thanks for the tips!

  19. Good morning, Tom! Pleased to meet you. I found your web page’s url in the New York Times, where you made a comment about a recipe entitled ‘Portuguese Empada’. Well, I believe I should tell you that the traditional Portuguese Empada recipe, which was created in Portugal more than 500 years old, was never made with puff pastry, and it was never vegetarian. Congratulations for your very interesting advices on the ripening of peaches. At the same time, I would like to tell you that, here in Canada, we have the famous Ontario Peaches, so sweet, delicious and beautiful that you should try one day. Have a good day, Tom!

  20. Allow me to make a correction, with an addendum to my comment: ” the traditional Portuguese Empada recipe, which was created in Portugal more than 500 years ago…” has always been made with pork fat, which in the Portuguese language we call “banha de porco”. I am no eater of pork fat, so in my recipes I use butter. Besides, the Portuguese Empada has traditional baking pans, also invented hundreds of years ago, still manufactured till the present days. It is a very rich and nutritious meal.

  21. Maria, thanks so much for the empanada tips and kind comments. I have to admit, I’m on a first name basis with pork fat, so I may have to revisit that recipe. Ontario peaches? Wow who knew, I thought it may be too cold to grow peaches there.

  22. I just bought peaches this past weekend. ANd processed them all yesterday. I was taught at a early age to pick up fruit as if it was super fragile and feel the weight and smell it. You want a fruity smell. Too bad so many are so used to the no taste stuff from the supermarket.

    I love the Indian Red peaches. I will have to ask if anyone is growing them near me now.

  23. My brain has been trying to spit this out for a week, and it suddenly came to me: It’s Mr. Whipple. Tom, you are the Mr.Whipple of peaches.

  24. I heard on the radio last week that the advertising guy who came up with the slogan “Don’t squeeze the Charmin” thought of it while watching someone squeezing fruit in the produce department of the local supermarket.
    I was taught by a farmer who brought the best peaches and nectarines to our local farmer’s market that the way to test stone fruit is to gently press the area around the stem with your thumb. If it gives a little, the fruit is ripe. Works for me!
    How’s the woodshed coming?

  25. Da wunderful mister Wipple-spoken in an Elmer Fudd voice. Peaches should be grown in hot climates and they should be so ripe that you can smell them through thier skins with not further riping necessary!!! I grew up in the Rogue Valley and our peaches were heavenly.

  26. Karen: the woodshed is still a defunct chicken coop 😉

    Tamara, I suspect those peaches were in your backyard or down the street. And Rogue River grows some of the best pears in the world as well.

  27. As I was walking through the Home Depot garden department, I was surprised to see a tree with a sign that read Florida Peach. A peach tree that will grow in South Florida is an interesting idea considering our heat and humidity. It must be a new hybrid. Maybe I should give it a try or just keep buying those beautiful Washington Peaches when they arrive at our stores now that I know how to ripen them correctly

  28. Hi there! I am checking in from Mariposa, CA…gateway town into Yosemite Nat’l Park. I just found your delightful site by googling “how to ripen fresh peaches” cuz I have a passle of them from my tree and need them to ripen so I can make peach pies with my grandkids this weekend. I too, vow never again to squeeze a peach! Thanks for that! I’m hunting a recipe for the peach pies…saw a comment about your peach custard pie? How do I find it??

  29. Hi Kathi, I’ve been to Mariposa and my mouth remained dropped the entire trip to Yosemite. Heaven on hearth indeed.

    Now about custard peach pies, I have two favorites:
    1. In this recipe just make your standard crust and substitute peaches for apples and then you add a crumble top: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/member/views/SOUR-CREAM-AND-APPLE-CRUMBLE-PIE-50084530

    2. The one in the picture is this recipe originally with rhubarb but I substitute 4-6 peaches instead and skip the fruit heating in the microwave stage: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/recipe?id=6786761

    You Kathi are a very good Grandma, peach pies, ummmmmmmmmmm

  30. I just found your site while looking for good ways to ripen my peaches for canning. Your pictures look so appetizing! There’s nothing better than cradling a peach gently in your hands and smelling that sweet beautiful aroma. People look at me crazy for sniffing the peaches and the nectarines at the grocery store. Sadly, there’s hardly ever anything there worth paying for. But I just got a bushel of peaches for .23/lb from a local orchard (wow!). Thanks for the information!

  31. Just a quick question. Where did you buy your indian free peach trees? I’d like to buy some trees that produce peaches the color of yours, or at least close to the same color.

  32. I don’t know Robert, likely the lack of sun had something to do with it 😉
    It may have been because of the relative youth of the tree or the small size of the fruit that year or that the trees were poorly irrigated that year. Not really sure.

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