You wouldn’t think a juicy ripe peach would be hard to come by in the middle of peach season. But unless you hit up a farmers’ market or u-pick orchard, you’re not likely to find the peach perfection you’re longing for. That’s because supermarket peaches are picked while they're pretty much rock-hard so they’ll survive shipping. But there is a way to help unripe peaches become their sweetest selves, with an assist from an everyday kitchen item (and a dash of simple science). Here's how to do it.
Start by choosing unbruised peaches with the least amount of green color around the stem end; these are most likely to give you the best results when you do the next step.
1. Set a paper bag on its side and arrange peaches in a single layer in the bag, stem-side down, so they're resting on their "shoulders." Make sure the sides of the peaches are not touching each other. Use a couple of bags if you have to.
2. Fold the top of the bag closed and let it sit undisturbed at room temperature. After 24 hours, check peaches for color and aroma. For yellow peaches, you're looking for a warm yellow undertone with little or no green around the stem end. For white peaches, look for a creamy undertone. They should smell distinctly peachy. Depending on how close to ripe they were to begin with, it might take one day or several days for them to fully ripen.
This is how I try to ensure the bag doesn't get moved around.
3. When peaches are sweet and juicy, you can store them uncovered in the fridge to stop the ripening process. But don't leave them in there for too long, otherwise the cold will make them dry and mealy.
Q & A
What's happening in the bag?
Peaches emit ethylene gas, a naturally occurring plant hormone that triggers the ripening process. Enclosing peaches in a bag traps the gas and speeds the ripening. Some like to put a banana or apple in the bag to boost the ethylene level.
Can I ripen peaches on the windowsill?
Yes, but there are a couple of drawbacks to that. 1) Fruit flies, ugh. 2) Direct sunlight can overheat and shrivel the peaches. (BTW, I have an easy, fool-proof way to get rid of fruit flies.)
Can I ripen peaches in the fridge?
No. The cold actually inhibits ripening, and can alter texture and flavor.
Can I ripen a green peach?
Sorry, no. But you can use them up in something like this peach chutney.
Try some of our most beloved fresh peach recipes.
More Peachy Goodness
- Before you can use them in a recipe, it helps to know how to peel and slice peaches.
- Learn all about peaches, including how to buy and store them.
- Try these new twists on peach cobbler.
- Check out our top peach desserts (plus a peachy sangria).
Have a peachy summer!
Photos by Vanessa Greaves