The platonic ideal of a peach, enhanced by nostalgia, comes enormous, round, and bursting with juice that tastes of summer sunshine. But while all types of peaches are good peaches, that image leaves out the many other equally delightful forms the fuzzy fruit takes on: crisp enough to add that cherished sweetness to a salad or palm-sized and perfect for snacking.
When Are Peaches in Season?
What the stereotype gets right, though, is the timing: peaches are a quintessential summer fruit, coming into season starting in May and peaking around the country in June, July, and August, before tapering out through the fall and ending in October.
How Can You Tell a Peach is Ripe?
The color of a peach is a great indicator of its ripeness, but not in the way most people think: though the attractive red blushing looks nice, it only indicates if your peach got a mild sunburn or not. The real key to finding a ripe peach is looking around the stem and making sure no green tinge remains. While you check that area, look for the first hints of wrinkles on the skin near the stem—that indicates it is perfectly ripe.
Pick up the peach gently to check the texture. It should have a little give—or a lot, if you want that dripping-down-the-chin level of ripeness. Finally, use the best tool for the job: sniff your peach. It should smell just like that wonderful syrupy flavor you hope to find inside.
How to Remove a Peach Pit
The best way to remove a peach pit is to eat around the pit until none of the flesh remains. But that works less well if you plan to cut or slice it for salads, sauces, or sweet desserts. In those cases, the secret to cutting a peach comes in cutting it around its equator. Slice through the flesh to the pit all the way around the middle, then hold the top half with the stem in one hand and the bottom half in the other and twist them in opposite directions. Then repeat the process with the half in which the pit remains. The pit will pull out easily from the quartered peach—and you’ll be ready to start dicing or chopping.
As the name implies, freestone peaches are less attached to their pits, which makes them useful in sliced preparations, like Fontina and Peach Grilled Cheese. They also tend to be larger than clingstone varieties, and less juicy, which makes them terrific for baking.
Clingstone peaches are smaller, juicier, and more difficult to get the pit out of, so rarely end up looking as nice once you do. But plenty of great peach dishes end up cooking the peach anyway, like in Seared Chicken in Coconut-Peach Broth, so nobody can even tell—and the added sweetness of these peaches makes it worth the grapple-factor.
This hybrid of the two main types of peaches aims to bring the best of both varieties into a single peach: big, juicy, and easy to separate from the pit. With this versatility, it can easily be used in any type of dish, in nice large wedges for a Cherry Tomato and Peach Panzanella or diced small for a Peach Salsa to go with Spice Rubbed Pork Medallions.
Melting flesh peaches ripen quickly into super-soft, buttery smooth fruit that, as the trope goes, need to be eaten over the sink. Messy and delightful, they tend to work best eaten out of hand or used in a sauce that doesn’t depend on the peach for texture, like Chicken and Honey-Glazed Peach.
Non-melting peaches retain their structure as they ripen, gradually becoming less firm but holding their shape. All non-melting peaches are clingstone peaches, though all clingstone peaches are not non-melting. Use a non-melting peach for the types of dishes where the peach shape draws the eye, like Peach and Arugula Salad to go with Seared Trout.
Types of peaches
These hybridized descendants of a very old type of peach look just like their namesakes, only with a small pit in place of the hole. The petite size and lack of acid—which makes them seem sweeter—make these a great snacking peach. This is one of our favorite types of peaches.
Most people think of nectarines as a whole different fruit, but nectarines are simply a type of peach with a genetic mutation that keeps them fuzz-free. That makes them nice for eating directly and allows bakers to leave the skin on, and they can stand in for a peach in any recipe.
A large creamy white and red-skinned peach with white flesh, this clingstone’s big flavor is worth the mess it takes to pry it from the pit, especially showcased in a dish like Seared Chicken with Ginger-Peach Sauce.
This semi-freestone peach with smooth skin is on the small side and is also one of the less sweet options. It has a little tartness to it, which can work well in savory preparations, like a Peach and Snap Pea Grain Bowl.
Belle of Georgia
A white freestone that grows into a big, red-blushing fruit with firm flesh, this peach makes an easy one to cut or slice for salads or use in Peach Salsa to go over Seared Chicken.
This medium-sized yellow clingstone peach boasts great flavor lurking below its red-blushed skin. It’s a clinger, but once it’s in your Peach Pan Sauce for Pork Chops, nobody will notice if it got a bit mangled as you pulled the pit.
A bright yellow-fleshed peach with medium firmness and a strong blush to the skin, this looks and tastes the part of the classic peach and holds up well as wedges, like in a Peach Caprese Salad.
Super sweet, compact, and freestone, this baseball-sized peach ripens to a rich yellow and tends to be low in acid and high in juice – great for eating whole with plenty of napkins or as the base of a grilled peach cobbler.
Learn more about other seasonal stone fruit here.