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How to Choose Ripe Fruit at the Farm Market

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?

FruitEtiquette

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…..
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Peach Salsa!!!

I must admit, I DO have some favorites that I LOVE to make because I LOVE to eat them!

One is Peach Salsa!

SalsainJar

On Saturday at the Osoyoos Market on Main, our spot is beside a local grower. Dave and his wife grow the old fashioned varieties of fruit. Most of the common peaches found at fruit stands and in farm markets around the Okanagan this time of year are the Red Havens. These are a freestone variety that is great for eating and for canning. This is also the variety that gets shipped to grocery stores.

Dave grows the most incredible tasting cling peaches.  The flesh of clingstone peaches sticks firmly to their pits, or stones, They have a soft texture, and are juicier and sweeter than other peach varieties making them perfect for baking your favorite peach desserts. The commercial industry uses clingstones for preparing canned peaches. These tend to be the preferred variety for jellies and jams. However they do not travel well when ripe (eg. they bruise quite easily). They are difficult to prepare for the home canner and you may prefer to to use Red Havens.

Dave’s peaches have a rich, concentrated peach flavor, which is perfect for making our delectable delights, especially Peach Salsa. However, to make salsa, you need slightly under-ripe peaches. This was a win-win, as Dave’s customers prefer the riper peaches.

Dave put the greener peaches aside and at the end of the day, we bought the case. With cling peaches, you HAVE to cut the flesh off the stone, this can be intimidating (and difficult), however, if you are making each jam or salsa, you want the peach in small pieces anyway.  Here is a great article on how to cut peaches!

Here are the Ingredients for Peach Salsa:

  • Ingredients
  • 16 Cups of peeled, sliced and diced peaches (approximately 28 peaches)
  • 2 cups diced Sweet Peppers
  • 1 1/2 Cups diced Onions
  • 1/2 Cup diced Jalapeno Peppers
  • 1/4 Cup Grated Fresh Ginger
  • 1/4 Cup Minced Garlic
  • 1 1/2 Cups Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • Cilantro (if desired)
  • 2 Tbsp Lime Juice

Note: Unlike Preserves, you can halve this recipe.

Directions:

  1. If canning, prepare canner jars and lids. (It takes approximately 40 minutes for a canner to get the first set of jars ready).Peppers & OnionsAll the RestAnd Stir
  2. Add vinegar, peaches, peppers, onions, ginger, garlic, sugar,  to a large (8 quart) stockpot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.Stirring
  3. Fill hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.  Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes for 500 ml/pints and 10 minutes for 250 ml/half pints.

19 Jars of Yummyness!

This recipe makes 9 pints or 18 half pints of yummyness!

  • Each 1/2 pint jar contains over one and one half peaches
  • Each pint contains 3 peaches!

Storage:

  • Store fresh, cooked salsa in the refrigerator for about a week. Peaches will start to lose color and texture after that time.
  • Store canned salsa for up to 1 year in a cool, dark place.  (Ambient light will cause the color of the salsa to fade).

We made 2 batches today (36 jars) We will make more batches before peach season is over so we can have some for sale at the Hills Garlic Festival!

Serve this tasty peach salsa with grilled or pan-fried pork, sea food, fish, or chicken.