The peach crop in the South is coming a little bit earlier than normal this year. Usually they're picked just in time for annual summer peach festivals, including a big one in Candor, North Carolina, on July 19 and 20.
Andy Rollins, an agent with the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service, works with peach farmers in upstate South Carolina. The state is second only to California in the number of peaches grown in the U.S. South Carolina also grows more than Georgia (apologies, Peach State).
"We have a huge array of peaches that go all the way from ... really for us in the upstate, the third week of May, all the way through the first week of September," Rollins says. "We have what's called a Freestone peach, and we have what's called a Clingstone, and typically our Clingstone are what come off first. We have over 300 different varieties that are cultivated varieties of the peach."
Here are a few tips from Rollins for eating peaches this summer as the fruit hits its stride:
Is Refrigerating Peaches A Good Idea?
"Yes, it's good to refrigerate them," Rollins says. "If you're going to refrigerate them, keep them refrigerated. The temperature does have a lot [to do with] how quickly they ripen, and so there are issues if they've been cooled down too far and too early in their ripening cycle. But ... you do want that softness of the peach, and you want it to have a yellow background, and it ripens from the further part toward where it attaches to the tree itself."
What About The Way A Peach Smells — And Feels?
"Fragrance is an indicator as well of ripeness, and ... the pressure of the flesh," Rollins says. "There is a problem though with telling as far as there [are] melting peaches and then there's nonmelting peaches. The peaches we're picking right now, which are like Red Globe and July Prince and Contender, all of these peaches are melting peaches. So when they're at full ripe, when you bite into it, it actually, the juice goes all over you and flesh gets very, very soft and sweet, and it's really an amazing thing."
A Top Tip For Trying Out A Peach?
"Taste them, is the main thing," Rollins says. "Taste them first and make sure you like them. Peach really is ... it's the best fruit on the planet, bar none. There's not a better fruit. Don't miss out."
This segment aired on July 10, 2019.