Nothing says summer like sinking your teeth into a juicy ripe piece of fruit! Yet, sometimes there’s disappointment when that first peach or nectarine of the season just doesn’t taste quite ripe. How can you tell which is a better piece of fruit when they all look the same in the grocery store display or at your local farmer’s markets?
For most peaches and nectarines, look at the stem cavity of the fruit. You want to see more yellow undertones than green, and see the full red color going deep into the stem cavity.
That piece of fruit is likely a bit riper than one with green undertones or less color. The better fruit should give a little, but you don’t want it to be too soft unless you want to eat it right away (or want to make jam with it).
On farmer’s market nectarines, in particular, you may see some “speckling” called russeting.
I’d grab that piece of fruit as it likely was located on the tree that got more sunshine, hence the “freckles.” You shouldn’t see that in grocery store fruit since cosmetic blemishes are typically culled out. Too bad, really. Some of the best-tasting fruit has imperfections!
Our San Joaquin Valley packing houses work with the produce buyers at grocery stores to make sure consumers have good quality tree fruit available all summer long. The fruit is picked when it first reaches ripeness so it “has legs” and can travel to its final destination and still have a shelf-life for the grocery stores. Depending on the current supply-demand conditions, most tree fruit is picked, pre-cooled, washed, packed, and additional ripening conditions if needed, within 1 or 2 days, and shipped immediately. At farmer’s market or fruit stands, the fruit may have been left on the tree a bit longer to ripen more before it is picked and made available to customers. Either way, farmers and the tree fruit industry work hard to help ensure consumers have good quality, nutritious tree fruits available all summer.
Remember, though, the later you get into the season, the better the peaches and nectarines will taste. Depending on variety, a July or August peach will taste better than a June peach or nectarine. When it’s in season –that’s your reason to eat it!!!
Liz, her husband Earl, their grown children and their families make up Hudson Farms, a fifth-and sixth-generation family farm in Sanger, CA.