It’s the height of stone fruit season (hashtag blessed) and we can’t visit the farmers’ market without loading up on peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots. Thanks to our authors, we have plenty of ideas on how to use these warm-weather jewels in the kitchen, but before we can get to baking, there’s the picking. Rather than squeeze every peach in site, we culled together some tips for choosing the best and ripest fruit.
Take a sniff. One of the best indicators of ripeness is aroma (particularly for peaches), so always make sure to smell your fruit, placing your nose near where the stem would be. It should smell sweet and fragrant, but not malty or fermented.
Gentle, but firm. To prevent bruising, don't squeeze: just press gently against the shoulder of the fruit (near the stem). It should be soft enough to yield slightly, but not mushy.
In living color. Avoid fruit that still has green (generally around the stem), as that means it was picked too early and isn’t quite ripe. (The exception to this rule are varieties of plums that are green at full ripeness).
Range life. Most shoppers go straight for the softest fruit, but it’s best to buy fruit across a range of ripeness. For eating out of hand, we buy peaches and plums a few days before peak ripeness and let them ripen on the counter (store them in one even layer, stem side down). And for soups or baking, we tend towards softer fruits that can be used right away--we also look for bruised fruit that might be discounted.