Not all peaches are created equal. Learn everything you need to know to choose the right peaches for cooking and eating.

By Melanie Fincher
April 28, 2020
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We don't need to tell you this, but fresh, local peaches are truly one of summer's greatest gifts to us. Each year we make a pilgrimage to farmers' markets and roadside stands for one thing and one thing only: plump, blushing peaches dripping with juice, perfectly ripe for baking, grilling, or better yet, eating out of hand.

But it might surprise you to know that not all peaches are created equal. In fact, there's quite a lot of variety when it comes to peaches. Color, shape, and size can all vary among different types of peaches. Why does this matter to you? Some types are best for baking, while others are better for grilling or use in salads. Keep reading to learn about the different types so you can reach for the right peach this summer.

Freestone vs. Clingstone Peaches

All types of peaches can be lumped into two categories: freestone and clingstone. Freestone simply refers to peaches where the flesh is not attached to the pit, allowing you to easily remove it. Freestone peaches are best for cooking, baking, and eating out of hand because peeling and slicing is a breeze.

Clingstone on the other hand refers to fruit where the flesh is attached to the pit, which can make them more difficult to prep. These are best saved for eating out of hand. In general, clingstone peaches are typically reserved for commercial uses, such as for canned peaches. Most of the peaches you'll find in supermarkets or at farmers markets are freestone, but you can always ask your farmer to be sure. Read more about the difference between freestone and clingstone peaches here.

Different Types of Peaches

Knowing the difference between freestone and clingstone peaches is a good start, but the variety doesn't end there. Learn about these four major types of peaches, and get tips on how to use them.

1. Yellow Peaches

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Peaches come in two main flesh colors: yellow and white. Yellow peaches are most common, ranging in color from light yellow to orange yellow streaked with red.

When you daydream about juicy, summer peaches, you're likely thinking of yellow peaches. These peaches have a sweet flesh that's balanced with a light acidity. As with all peaches, look for ones that are heavy for their size, but give a little with pressure. And don't forget the sniff test! Ripe peaches will smell peachy.

Ripeness matters less if you plan to cook or bake with them, but if you want to speed up the ripening process use the paper bag method.

2. White Peaches

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White peaches tend to be variants of Asian peach trees. They are similar in flavor to yellow peaches, however they are said to be slightly sweeter due to their low acidity. They have a pale pink hue on the outside and a pale yellow flesh.

Because white peaches are softer than yellow peaches, they don't hold up as well when baked. Stick to grilling or eating these peaches raw.

3. Donut Peaches

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Donut peaches have grown in popularity in recent years, but they’re actually an heirloom variety. They have a flat, saucer shape, resembling a doughnut. They have a sweet, white flesh and a flat shape that makes them perfect for eating out of hand.

You're more likely to find these darling peaches at local farmer’s markets rather than in the supermarket. They're in season between July and August.

4. Nectarines

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And finally, we have nectarines — they're the odd ones out of the bunch. Nectarines are actually a type of peach. What makes them different from the rest? Their smooth, fuzz-free skin.

Nectarines may be yellow or white in flesh and clingstone or freestone. Like peaches, they have a sweet, almost honeyed flavor. They tend to be firmer, often resembling the texture of an apple. Use them however you would a peach — for grilling, baking, salads, or eating out of hand.

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