There are few things that capture the sweetness of summer as well as a perfectly ripe peach. While the fruit is currently abundant at markets, it can be difficult to select peaches at their peak. Therefore, we asked Chef Gregory Gettles of Durham-based Piedmont Restaurant, which features seasonal and local farm-grown fare, to walk us through how he picks and cares for peaches during his regular trips to the Durham Farmer’s Market. Here are his recommendations:
With your eyes: First I do a visual assessment of the available peaches’ color and size. Once they’ve been picked, peaches won’t develop more sugar within the flesh. Therefore, it is important to look for peaches that have a beautiful yellow or cream background color. There should be some rosy tones on certain parts of the peach, and the skin needs to be smooth and unwrinkled. Look for bumps, bruises, cuts, divots, or other abnormalities. Those that are ugly, bruised, or just not pretty go back in the pile.
With your hands: As I turn a peach over in my hand, I always give it a light squeeze. I want a firm peach that gives slightly around the peach seam. If a peach is too soft, it is already ripe (or severely bruised) and won’t last long in the kitchen; if a peach is too hard, it was picked too early and is a lost cause. If I feel a bruise (an isolated soft part), that peach should return to the pile as well.
With your heart: I take great care in selecting my peaches, but the attention to detail doesn’t stop there. I carefully transfer them to a paper bag or a basket (I am continually surprised and somewhat heartbroken by how many people just drop them in the bag; more drops equals more bruises). Once I get back home, I place a dishtowel on one of my big cookie sheets and put it on top of my toaster oven, and place the peaches on top. This way, the peaches have a safe, slightly warm space to hang out while I wait for them to ripen, which may take a day or two. When I need a peach, I just carefully give the squeeze test again. If your peaches ripen too quickly for your intended purpose, don’t fret—they can go into the refrigerator for a day or two to slow things down, but I try to avoid this at all costs.
TSG Tip 115: from Chef Gregory Gettles of Piedmont Restaurant in Durham, NC.