Know exactly what type of peach you're cutting into this summer
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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 look forward to about summer. There may be no single bite more pure sunshine than a tree-ripened peach, heavy with juice, the blushing velvet skin giving way to tender flesh that's naturally sweet and balanced with just the right amount of acid. Eaten out of hand, sliced into salads, baked in pies, turned into jams, even pickled, peaches are the ultimate flavor of summer.

When buying peaches, whether small or large, yellow or white, round or donut-shaped, the major difference comes down to peach variety: freestone or clingstone. But how do you tell which peaches are which? 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 easily remove the pit, making them a pleasure to eat out of hand and great 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 flesh from the pit can bruise or damage it, leading to 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

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

When baking and canning whole or sliced peaches, use fruit that is just ripe, but not overly soft. For pickling, you will want slightly underripe peaches. For jams and butters, you can use overripe and bruised peaches — 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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