Spring's warm weather brings a bounty of new and fresh produce. It's peach season here in Arizona and I was ready for the picking. Around mid May, Arizona peach trees start to bear their sweet, fuzzy fruit - a spring treat I can't wait to bite into! So, I grabbed the essentials (my fruit basket and sun hat, of course) and headed over to Schnepf Farms for some good, Arizona peach picking. While out in the orchard I learned how to spot the perfect peach, when a peach is at its maximum sweetness, and how to store peaches at home. Let's head out to the orchard for some peach picking fun!
I love picking produce straight from the source. It's truly the freshest produce you can find. Even from a mile away, the smell of fresh peaches was wafting through the air, calling us to pick their fuzzy fruits. We made our way to the orchard on the back of a tractor trailer lined with hay bale seats, taking us to what felt like the promised peach farm land. Tractor riding, getting your hands a little dirty, and finding dust on your shoes is all part of the peach picking fun!
Lucky for us, peach trees love Arizona's dry desert climate and produce some succulent stone fruit. The Schepf Farm orchards grow a wide variety of peaches - about eight peach types! On the day of our peach picking adventure, the Florida Prince and Princess varieties were ready for harvest. The peach trees were absolutely bursting with fruit, with every branch spotted with ripe yellow and orange beauties.
When is a peach ready for the picking?:
Look for a peach that is slightly tender to the touch, can be easily pulled from its branch, and is a vibrant color. A peach that is not ripe is still hard, green or pale in color, and is firmly attached to the tree.
The color of a peach can tell you a few things about where the fruit is in the ripening process. Any green on a peach indicates the peach is not ready to be picked, no matter how long you let it ripen on the counter. Interestingly enough, once a peach looses its green, the color no longer indicates its ripeness. A peach's red/yellow/orange color doesn't change the riper the fruit becomes - their colors are determined by the peach variety and are not an indicator of when they should be picked. This means a bright yellow peach can be just as ripe as a bright red peach.
What if I Pick a Peach that is a Good Color but is Still Firm?
As a peach ripens on the tree, the fruit's acids change into that sweet sugar taste we know and love. If you pick a peach that is still hard, the peach will stop converting its acids into the sugar it needs to be super sweet. Even if you let a hard peach soften on the counter for a few days, it won't get sweeter, just softer and more juicy.
How to Ripen and Store your Peaches:
If your peaches are still firm, place the peaches stem-side down in a bowl on the counter. It is best to keep the ripening peaches out of direct sun light and cover them with a towel. Covering the bowl with a towel traps the gasses peaches release, helping the fruit ripen more quickly. The peaches are ripened when they are soft and fragrant. Once the peaches are ripe, place them in the crisper drawer in the fridge and enjoy them within the next 5 days.
I have a few tasty plans for my fresh picked peaches. I'm going to experiment with some jams, preserves, and maybe even an ice cream. One of my favorite peach recipes is baked peaches with spiced mascarpone, which makes for a sweet and creamy Spring dessert. But the best way truly enjoy a peach requires no utensils, ingredients, or prepping - you just need a juicy peach, napkin, and an appetite. You can even start your snack out in the orchard! Now that is truly farm to table, or in this case, tree to taste buds.
Are you peach picking this season? If you don't live in Arizona, you might have to wait until early summer to start peach picking.
What plans do you have for your peach harvest? I would love to hear from you below!