At the grocery store, I am like everyone else, I tend to hold, squeeze, poke, and prod the fruit to see if it’s going to be ripe enough to eat that week.
BUT if you try this at a farmer’s market — you’re likely to get glares from the stall owners!
So what’s the etiquette and how can you be sure you’re taking home a good peach?
The fruit you get at the grocery store, is usually picked when it’s a bit under-ripe, as they assume it will ripen during transport. Whole trees are picked at once, meaning the ripe, unripe, and overripe all go into the mix and making choosing the best fruit a guessing game.
However, when you buy from the farmer at the farmer’s market, it is selectively picked at it’s prime and usually within of a few days (or hours!) of going to the market. When you are buying at the farm market, You can buy fruit with the assumption that if it’s not already ripe, it will be within the next day or two.
Yes, you can pick up fruit – to judge it’s size and look for spoilage. However, hold it gently and don’t squeeze or poke. When you do this, (especially with peaches) it causes bruising that is quickly visible on the surface of the fruit, making it difficult for the farmer to sell later on.
If you’re not sure the fruit is ripe, smell it close to the stem end. Unripe fruit will have little to no aroma while ripe fruit will smell sweet. The stronger the scent, the more ripe the fruit.
If you are not sure, ask the question, “Will these [name of fruit] be ready to eat by [insert day here]?”. When you ask questions, you can start a conversation about which fruit is ripest, how to store it, and how long it can keep. And you may make a new friend.
OK, at the farm market, you can ask the farmer, but how can you tell at other places? Because peaches are in season, I asked our friend Dave Evens, who sells fruit at the Osoyoos Market how to choose a ripe peach. He told me there are three main characteristics that would help you identify a sweet, juicy, ready-to-eat peach:
1. Color: This is important because you ought to know what you’re looking for. Dave, says “The real color you want to look for is the background color of the fruit and not the red, highlight.” According to him, the red color is deceptive because our brain is genetically evolved to think that the color red is delicious and sweet. He says, “Breeders have bred the color red into a lot of peaches grown around the world now-a-days because it helps sell the fruit.” The real color you want to look for is the yellow and it should be deep golden, not pale.
2. Touch: You can tell if a peach is ripe or not with a gentle, yet firm squeeze (not hard enough to bruise it) with your fingers. If there’s a little bit of a give there, then it means that the fruit is almost ripe but not quite. I could leave such a peach on the kitchen counter for another 2-3 days until it is actually soft to very soft.
3. Skin Texture: This is the most telling of all three characteristics. You can tell that a peach is ready to eat by looking for signs of shriveled skin around the stem. When you see these wrinkles, that’s the sign of a really excellent peach. I had asked Dave what the shriveling means and he explained that wrinkles develop on the skin when water starts to leave the fruit. “Water evaporates from fruit once it has been picked because the skin is very porous. It will shrivel and dry up and that will intensify the flavors and give you the best peach flavor,” he explained.
Now you know, so Don’t Squeeze the Fruit!
Tomorrow at the market we will have:
- Spicy Pickled Cukes,
- Dill Pickles
- Tomato Salsa
- Strawberry Coconut & Vanilla Jam
- Tequila Jalapeno Jelly and More…..