A sure sign of summer, peach season typically kicks off in late June with the duration and peak peach picking season varying depending on regional climates and specific varieties grown.
A great peach isn’t just about the juicy bite; it’s the culmination of perfect picking conditions, the right type of peach, and the care taken during harvest.
Whether you’re a seasoned picker or this is your first foray into the orchard, understanding when and how to pick the perfect peach can make this summer activity even more delightful.
Factors like weather, grower practices (whether organically done or not), and even the type of peach (like clingstone or freestone peaches) can influence the timing and quality of your peach-picking experience.
- Before heading to the orchard, call ahead to ensure optimal picking conditions, wear protective clothing like long sleeves and sunscreen, and bring necessary supplies such as drinks, snacks, and containers for your peaches.
- Look for vibrant colors, trust the fruit’s aroma, and gently squeeze for the right firmness. Remember to pluck peaches gently, and avoid those that have fallen to the ground.
- Store peaches at room temperature until ripe, then refrigerate. Freshly picked peaches are super versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes, from peach cobbler and peach pie to peach butter and refreshing summer drinks.
- Peak peach picking season varies by region, usually spanning from late June to early September. The morning hours are often the best time for picking, and the sweetness level of peaches is set once picked, although they can continue to soften and ripen.
Getting Ready To Go Peach Picking – Checklist
Before you head out to enjoy the summertime tradition of peach picking, it’s essential to prepare.
The farmer’s orchards can be vast, and the sun is unforgiving. The best peaches might require a bit of a search, but with a little prep, you’re ready to make this summer memorable.
1. Call the Orchard Before You Go
Different peach varieties ripen at different times, and there’s no bigger disappointment than arriving to find out they’re still a week away from peak ripeness.
By giving the orchard a ring, you’ll know the peach varieties available and the best time to pick them.
Some popular peach orchards also update their picking conditions online, so it’s a good idea to check their websites too.
2. Wear Long-Sleeves and Pants
The orchard can be home to various bugs, and branches and long grass can scratch or irritate the skin. Wearing long-sleeved tops and pants will protect you from both.
This will also provide some additional protection from the sun.
3. Bring a Hat and Sunglasses
The sun’s rays can be powerful, especially in the open fields of an orchard.
A wide-brimmed hat and UV-protective sunglasses will shield you from the sun and make your peach-picking adventure more comfortable.
4. Don’t Forget Sunscreen
While a hat provides shade for your face, the rest of your body will still be exposed. Apply sunscreen generously, especially if you plan to be out for an extended period.
It’s summertime, after all, and a sunburn can quickly spoil the fun of your freshly picked peach adventure.
5. Skip the Perfume, Cologne and Scented Lotions
Insects, especially bees, are attracted to strong scents. When you’re out in nature, it’s best to blend in. Stick to unscented lotions and avoid perfumes or colognes.
6. Pack Drinks, Snacks and Hand Wipes
A day in the orchard can be tiring. Hydration is vital, so pack plenty of water. Snacks can keep your energy up, and hand wipes will be useful after enjoying a juicy peach or two straight from the tree.
7. Bring Containers for the Ride Home
Peaches are delicate and can bruise easily. Bring sturdy containers or baskets to transport your bounty.
A single layer of ripe peaches in a container is ideal to avoid bruising. If you plan to pick a lot, consider a container with separators.
8. Leave Pets at Home
While your four-legged friend might love a day out, not all orchards are pet-friendly.
You don’t want to disturb other pickers, and no one enjoys stepping in a surprise when walking through the orchard, so you can understand why no-pet policies are in place.
9. Go Early
Not only is the morning cooler, making for a more comfortable picking experience, but you’ll also get the first pick of the day’s ripest peaches.
Plus, early birds often avoid the crowds that can gather during peak peach-picking hours.
Peach Picking Tips
Picking the perfect peach isn’t just about finding the juiciest, ripest fruit on the tree.
There are various pointers to consider ensuring that each peach is firm yet ripe, aromatic, and free from bruises.
These tips for picking the perfect peach will guarantee that your basket is filled with the best peaches from the orchard.
1. Look for Good Color
The color of a peach is a clear indicator of its ripeness. A peach with a deep yellow or reddish hue, often termed the red blush, usually suggests it’s ripe and ready to be picked.
However, remember that color can vary among peach varieties, so it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the type of peach you’re picking.
2. Smell the Fruit
One of the best ways to determine the ripeness of a peach is by its aroma. A ripe peach will have a sweet and fruity scent.
If you’re unsure, compare the aroma of different peaches around the orchard. You’ll soon find that a ripe peach has an unmistakably inviting smell.
3. Squeeze Fruit Gently
Firmness is a telltale sign of a peach’s readiness. A perfectly ripe peach will yield slightly to a gentle squeeze but won’t be too soft.
Too much softness can indicate over-ripeness, while a hard peach is still too young. Remember to squeeze gently to avoid bruising the fruit.
4. Gently Pluck From Tree
When you’re ready to pick a peach, hold it in your hand, and pull gently while twisting slightly. If it’s ripe, it should come off the tree effortlessly.
Use caution, and try to avoid peaches with visible cuts or blemishes.
5. Leave Fallen Peaches on the Ground
Peaches on the ground might seem tempting, but they’re often overripe or bruised or have started to rot. Stick to the ones still on the tree for the freshest picks.
6. Pick Peaches in Different Stages of Ripening
While it’s enticing to pick only the ripest peaches, consider choosing some that are firmer.
They’ll soften over the next few days, prolonging the life of your peach stash. It ensures you’ll have a fresh peach ready for that perfect bite every day.
7. Avoid Piling Peaches on Top of One Another
Peaches are delicate. Piling them high can cause the ones at the bottom to bruise. It’s always best to layer them in a single layer in your basket or container.
How To Store Peaches
After the hard work and enjoyment of peach picking, the next challenge is to keep these stone fruits fresh for as long as possible.
How you store peaches can significantly impact their flavor, texture, and longevity.
With the right storage guidelines, you can savor the great flavors of your freshly picked peaches for an extended period. Here are some key storage guidelines:
If your peaches are still firm, they might need a few days to ripen fully. To speed up the ripening process, place them in a closed paper bag at room temperature.
The bag will trap ethylene gas produced by the peach, naturally accelerating the ripening.
However, avoid using plastic bags as they can lead to mold development due to trapped moisture.
Once a peach is ripe, move it to the refrigerator to prolong its freshness.
Cold temperatures slow down the ripening process, but remember that a peach can lose its sweet flavor if stored too long in cold conditions.
Generally, they can be kept refrigerated for up to a week.
Before eating, take them out and let them sit at room temperature for a few hours. It will help bring back their natural sweetness and juiciness.
Single Layer Storage
When storing peaches, especially in the refrigerator, lay them in a single layer on a tray or shallow dish. It will help avoid bruising and prevent them from becoming overly soft.
If you have more peaches than you can eat in a short period, consider freezing them.
Start by blanching, then peeling and slicing them. Coating them in sugar is optional, but it makes for a very sweet treat in the future. Store in a freezer-safe bag, removing as much air as possible.
This way, you can enjoy your peach in various recipes throughout the year.
Ideas for Using Your Peaches
Peaches, with their succulent flavor and super versatile nature, are the crown jewel of summertime fruits.
Whether you prefer them fresh or baked into a dessert, there are endless ways to enjoy your peach bounty. Here’s a list of delightful ideas to make the most of your harvest.
- Fresh Peach Delight: Sometimes, the best way to enjoy a fresh peach is to bite into its juicy flesh right after it’s been washed. The burst of flavor is sure to transport you to a sunny orchard.
- Peach Pie and Peach Cobbler: Classic and popular peach desserts, these are sure to be hits at any gathering. The sweetness of ripe peaches combined with the crust or the biscuit-like topping of a cobbler is pure magic.
- Peach Butter or Jam: Convert your peaches into a spreadable delight. Peach butter or jam is a fantastic way to capture the flavor of the season and enjoy it on your morning toast or even as a filling for pastries.
- Peach Smoothies: Combine peaches with some yogurt, a dash of sugar (or honey), and some ice, and you have a refreshing summer drink.
- Salads: Freshly picked peaches add a sweet and tangy twist to summer salads, especially when paired with ingredients like goat cheese or grilled chicken.
- Grilled Peaches: Grilling enhances the natural sugars in the peach, making them even more irresistible. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a delectable dessert.
- Peach Ice Cream or Sorbet: Homemade peach ice cream or sorbet is a sure sign of summer. The freshness of the peach combined with the creaminess of the ice cream is a treat hard to resist.
Best States for Peach Picking
While peaches are grown across the U.S., certain states are particularly renowned for their peach crops. Some of the best states for peach picking include:
Frequently Asked Questions
What Month Is Best for Peach Picking?
The ideal time for peach picking largely depends on the region and the type of peach varieties being grown.
Generally, peak peach-picking season starts in late June and can extend through early September in many regions.
For instance, in southern states like Texas and South Carolina, the peach season may begin earlier, while in northern states like Michigan, it might start a bit later.
What Time of Day Is Best To Pick Peaches?
Going early in the morning is often the best time to pick peaches.
The morning coolness makes for pleasant picking conditions, and the peaches haven’t been heated by the sun, reducing the chances of them being too soft or getting bruised easily.
Plus, many farmers will tell you that the flavor of a peach, freshly plucked in the morning, is hard to beat!
How Can You Tell if a Peach Is Sweet and Juicy?
The aroma is one of the best indicators. A ripe and juicy peach will often give off a sweet fragrance that’s enticing. Also, look for a vibrant color and a slight red blush on the skin.
While these are good signs, the ultimate test is in the bite. If you’re at a farmer’s market or orchard where sampling is allowed, taste one to check for sweetness.
Do You Want Peaches Soft or Hard?
The perfect peach will yield slightly to gentle pressure, indicating its juiciness and readiness to be eaten.
However, too soft might mean it’s overripe, while too hard can indicate it’s not ripe enough.
The firmness also depends on the type of peach; for instance, freestone peaches tend to be firmer than clingstones.
Can You Pick Peaches Early and Let Them Ripen?
Yes, peaches can continue to ripen after they’ve been picked.
If you pick a peach that’s firm but not fully ripe, you can place it in a paper bag at room temperature to expedite the ripening process.
The trapped ethylene gas inside the bag will help soften the fruit. Once the peach is ripe, enjoy it or transfer it to the refrigerator for storage.
How Do You Ripen Fresh Picked Peaches?
To ripen a freshly picked peach, place it in a closed paper bag at room temperature. The bag traps the ethylene gas emitted by the peach, helping it to ripen faster.
If you’re trying to ripen multiple peaches, avoid stacking them in layers as this can cause bruising.
Do Peaches Get Sweeter After Picking?
While peaches will soften and become juicier after they’re picked, they won’t necessarily get sweeter. The sugar content in a peach is set once it’s picked.
So, it’s essential to pick peaches when they’ve reached their peak sweetness on the tree.
If you’re unsure about the sweetness level, consulting the grower or tasting a sample (if allowed) can be pointers to ensure you’re getting the sweetest peach.
Peach picking is a delightful activity that’s more than just a hobby—it’s an experience.
Whether you’re planning a day out with the family or a solo adventure, armed with these tips, you’re ready to pick the perfect peach every time.
Enjoy the fruits of your labor, and remember that there’s nothing quite like biting into a freshly picked, perfectly ripe peach on a summer’s day.