checking peaches for ripeness

mrsg47(7)September 7, 2012

Hi all, two of my first 30 peaches are becoming very fragrant and have a bit of give when I squeeze them. They are larger than peaches you find in the grocer's. They are huge this year for some reason. I'm not complaining, just curious. I gave them just a slight tug and they didn't budge. I have no idea how many more days I should let them stay on the tree. Many of the rest are still very light green, with a blush of red and are hard as rocks. The peaches are 'Elberta'. Many thanks, Mrs. G

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Just keep checking every day. Maybe twice a day. You want to pick them just before they end up bruised on the ground.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 7:08PM
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Thanks Itilton, The tree is netted, so the fruit, should it drop will fall gently into netting. I just don't want other creatures to smell the same deliciousness I do!

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 7:13PM
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It seems that the varmints can sense the impending ripeness before we do, so you may be in luck if you can smell them now.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 10:03PM
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alan haigh

I pick them when they are still firm but have a bit of give by the suture- if I wait until they're soft, yellow jackets destroy them. With the varieties I grow, it doesn't seem to affect quality if they are within a couple days of ripeness when brought inside. They will also keep much better if picked firm and sometimes can be kept in the fridge for as long as 2 weeks but quickly ripen when brought to room temp. Soft peaches get bruises immediately when put in the fridge and go bad in about a week (depending on certain factors). Coons also prefer a soft peach.

I suggest you experiment a bit and bring a few indoors if you think they are almost ripe. Soon you will develop your own methods and have a feel for the right time to pick them. As shown by a recent thread about pears, people develop their own methods. The worst thing is to pick every fruit on a tree and find out it was too early.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 9:48AM
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Thanks so much Itilton and H-man. Great advice as always! I've been so cautious squeezing them; I hope I haven't bruised them myself. They are currently softer at the bud end than the stem end, but are fragrant. I will check them twice today and tomorrow. Should I pick the two most fragrant even though they don't want to fall off easily? Mrs. G

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 9:56AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

Mrs. G,

I too pick a lot of peaches slightly firm. As Hman suggests, peaches slightly firm and allowed to counter ripen taste the same as peaches picked soft ripe off the tree. We are only talking a couple days difference. You'll find placement on the tree (i.e. inside vs. outside the canopy) makes much more difference in fruit quality.

There are a few signs I look at to get ready to start picking a tree.

You'll generally start to see a few peaches on the ground. This of course means there's some ready to be picked. you'll also notice the tree smells like peaches when you walk by. For individual peaches, there are a few things I look for. I don't squeeze peaches because they will bruise when squeezed, so I pick by sight. When all the green background color is gone, I pick them. If you're new at it make sure you look at the whole peach before picking (you may have to move some foliage) to make sure the whole peach doesn't have any green background color. If it's perfect ripe, even where the peach was connected to the branch will be yellow (not green).

A lot of peaches picked this way will be soft and ready to eat, but some will still be firm and will counter ripen to perfection.

One other thing is that (generally speaking) peaches on the inside (underneath) of the tree ripen later than peaches on the outside. Also I've noticed many peaches on one side of a tree will ripen a bit sooner than peaches on the other.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 11:09AM
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Thanks so much Olpea. I am already noticing that the peaches on the shadier side of the tree are smaller and much greener. Same for the fruits within the canopy. The peaches on the 'sunniest' side of the tree are huge. I will stop squeezing them! I didn't know better! I do now. I will look for the 'uniform' cream color' background where possible. Many of the peaches are turning entirely red. I remember an older post of yours, (paraphrasing) 'when you can walk by your peach tree and smell peaches, they are ready to pick'. the fragrance isn't that strong yet, but when sniffed, they are definitely that heavenly fragrance. Cannot wait! many thanks, Mrs. G

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 12:47PM
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alan haigh

That was a good explanation, Olpea. The only thing I could think of adding is that size draws me to the ripe fruit- not important for the first small crop but when there's hundreds on a tree requiring multiple pickings it's a very useful if obvious guide. Largest fruit is usually ready to pick.

Also, about dropping fruit at beginning of harvest- it is often the peaches with split pits or insect damage. In plums first ripening fruit usually has a worm or worm damage.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 2:02PM
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Right now I find pears turning yellow and dropping. These invariably have worm damage. The sound ones are still on the tree.

I think it's a good general principle to distrust fruits that color or drop too early.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 2:58PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

"I think it's a good general principle to distrust fruits that color or drop too early."

That's a fair observation ltilton. I typically don't have worm damage on fruits. I'm forced to maintain a higher standard for my fruits because customers demand it, so I probably have to spray a bit more often than most home growers.

Heck I've had people complain about ants on peaches that were fresh picked. If I sold someone wormy peaches, I'd probably lose that customer for life. So for me peaches generally drop because of ripeness vs. bug damage (although sometimes wildlife or wind will knock peaches off).

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 7:10PM
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alan haigh

Olpea, split pits are not necessarily the result of insect damage and I bet you will have seasons when splits might be bad enough that you can't sell some fruit.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 7:23PM
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Olpea, ants on peaches? Picky, Picky, LOL! I took your and harvestman's advice. I looked closely at the two largest peaches and picked them today (this includes itilton too!). I will take pictures of them tomorrow and photograph a few others on the tree. Oh they are huge. After going to the supermarket this am. I sneered at their hard-rock-like red peaches with no name. I am now committed to plant two new peach trees for next summer. Many thanks, for all of your advice, Mrs. G

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 7:25PM
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bart1(6/7 Northern VA)

Should slightly under ripe peaches go right into the 'fridge or sit on the counter a few days to ripen and then go into the fridge?

I thought I read something that suggested if you put under ripe peaches right into the 'fidge the quality/taste wouldn't be as good if you let them ripen at room temperature for a few days and then put them in the fridge.

Any truth to that?

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 7:51AM
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alan haigh

I think it's best to put in fridge when still firm- a day before soft. Fully ripe peaches get bruised and brown spots on flesh in fridge, even just from their weight.

Mrs G, don't forget to stagger your harvest. You will be amazed at how large are your harvests from a single mature tree so you sure don't need 2 ripening at the same time. You can also either plant 2 trees to a hole or graft different varieties on a single tree.

Now that, with Scott's help, I've figured out how to time grafting stone fruit and peaches seem easy. When I grafted them at same time as apples, not many took.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 8:11AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

"Olpea, split pits are not necessarily the result of insect damage and I bet you will have seasons when splits might be bad enough that you can't sell some fruit."

Hman, Apparently I missed this thread a few days ago. I didn't mention split pits earlier because they don't typically drop for me. Even split pits that are open don't drop off my trees most of the time.

I agree split pits are not the result of insect damage, but the result of the peach growing too fast in the fruit swell stage. I do sell split pits if they are not open, but if they have an opening, I don't sell them. Too many times the inside has mold or is rotten with open pits. Because of the drought we had hardly any split pits this year.

For anyone interested as a matter of curiosity, you can identify a peach with a split pit by looking at it, even if it's closed. It's tough for me to describe other than to say split pit peaches don't look right. A picture would probably go a long way in showing what I'm talking about.

Below is a link that shows a couple split pit peaches. In the link look at the first picture posted. The peach in the lower right hand corner is one of the split pits (although you can't tell from the picture whether it's open or not).


Peaches have what's called a "kill zone", which is 36-50 degrees F. Peaches stored at this temperature will slowly loose flavor and eating quality. Unfortunately this is the temperature in which most home refrigerators (and a lot of commercial refrigerators) are set. So if you're wanting to store peaches very long, it's best to lower your fridge temp as close to freezing as you can get, without actually freezing the fruit.

Here is a link that might be useful: Seedling peaches

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 9:01AM
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H-man you are so right about staggering tree harvest times (depends on the variety). I have done that with my apples, plums and peaches. The Elberta peach is particularly late. Many of the peaches are still green and just turning red. In two years I'll have to re-think the amount of trees I have. I am just so addicted.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 10:00PM
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alan haigh

My best late peach again this year was Encore- much better and a bit later than Elberta- meatier with higher flavor (brix). I want to try some more later varieties. If these long seasons become common I'll have an extra 2 or 3 weeks on those seasons to ripen peaches. They were all picked a few days ago. In the past I've picked Encore into the last week of Sept.

My Elberta and Encore grow side by side.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 6:55AM
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Tasted the 'Elberta' this morning. Heavenly. High sugar content with just the right amount of tang and acidity. All I want is MORE. Mrs. G

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 8:58AM
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