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How to tell when peaches are ripe

August is National Peach Month, and I’ve got some good news and some bad news.

The bad news: the squirrels ate all the peaches from our backyard tree. The good news: Glenn Cook from Cider Hill Farm explained how to tell when peaches are ripe. (Wish I had known this sooner, because I might have gotten to my peaches before the varmints did.) Here’s what he said:

Peaches are harvested by ground color and swell. Ground color is the color under the red blush, which goes from green to light green to yellow when the fruit is mature. The swell is the filling out of the cheeks in the last day or two before it is ready to pick. Peaches put on a lot of size in the last few days before harvest. Peaches picked for long haul shipping and storage are generally picked a few days sooner than we would, to make them more firm and durable, but they often will not develop their full flavor and juiciness. If picked correctly, they will be firm with just a little give when pressure is put on them, but will ripen to a juicy softness in just a day or two. In our area, mid season peaches tend to have the best flavor, which we harvest from early August to the end of that month. Peaches can be kept in the refrigerator for about two weeks.

And here’s another tip, straight from the Spiker’s kitchen: Fruit flies just love peaches. We usually have three or four different fruits in our home test kitchen at any given time, but when peaches are on the counter they are also on the fruit-fly menu. So as soon as we bring peaches home (from Cider Hill or any other local orchard), we bag ’em in gallon-size zip bags. And as soon as they are just-right ripe, they go into the fridge.