Know exactly what type of peach you're cutting into this summer.

By Stacey Ballis
April 28, 2020
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Peaches with slate background
Karla Conrad/Meredith
| Credit: Karla Conrad/Meredith

We can all agree that peaches are one of the things we most look forward to about summer. There may be no single bite that is more pure sunshine than a tree-ripened peach, heavy with juice, the blushing velvet skin giving way to tender flesh, natural sweetness balanced with just enough acid to keep it from being cloying. Eaten out of hand, sliced into salads, baked in pies, turned into jams, even pickled, peaches are the flavor of summer.

When looking for peaches, whether small or large, yellow or white, round or donut shaped, really the only major difference in peach variety is freestone or clingstone peaches. But how do you tell which peaches are freestone and which are clingstone peaches? When it comes to choosing between freestone and clingstone peaches, the biggest factor to consider is how you intend to use them.

What Are Freestone Peaches?

Freestone, or cling-free peaches refer to fruit where the flesh is not attached to the pit. When you cut or bite into these peaches, you can reach in and remove the pit easily, making them a pleasure both to eat out of hand, and for cooking, baking and canning, since they are easy to prep. Freestone peaches tend to show up later in the season, between mid-June and mid-August.

What Are Clingstone Peaches?

Clingstone peaches refer to peaches where the flesh is attached to the pit. These peaches are ideal for eating, but less desirable for cooking, baking or canning projects, since they are difficult to prep. Cutting the delicate flash from the pit can bruise or damage it, which will create oxidation in the fruit, or browning. Clingstone peaches are usually the first peaches available in the growing season, ripening between mid-May and early June.

How to Pick Peaches

When looking for peaches at the supermarket, most will be clearly labeled as either freestone or clingstone peaches, and vendors at farmer's markets will be able to tell you which is which. When purchasing peaches, look for fruit that is heavy for its size, unbruised, and fragrant. If it doesn't smell peachy, it isn't quite ripe.

How to Store Peaches

Fruit that is ready to eat should be consumed within two days of purchase and left at room temperature for optimal flavor. If you have more ripe peaches than you can consume in two days, you can store ripe peaches uncovered in the fridge for up to a week, but if possible, let them sit out at room temperature for an hour before eating for optimal flavor.

Always store unripe or ripening peaches at room temperature, the cold of the refrigerator will prevent ripening. If you want to buy fruit to last a bit longer, look for fruit that is slightly underripe, and let it ripen on your countertop, or place in a paper bag to speed up ripening. Once ripe you can store for two days at room temperature or in the fridge for up to a week.

For baking and canning in slices or whole, you will want to work with peaches that are just ripe, but not overly soft. For pickling, you will want peaches that are slightly underripe. For jams, you can use overripe and bruised peaches, it is a great way to use up fruit that has gone past its optimal eating life. You can even freeze peaches for year-round use in baked goods, smoothies, and more.

As we look towards the upcoming peach season, whether you choose freestone or clingstone peaches, it is sure to be a delicious summer!

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