From mid-May through October, the markets are flooded with summer peaches grown in California, Washington, Georgia, South Carolina, Michigan, New Jersey and other states. There are over 200 peach and 175 nectarine varieties from California alone, each at its peak only 10 days or so. They fall into a few basic categories:
Yellow Flesh: These are the traditional favorite peaches and nectarines with a red blush over a yellow background that you want to eat when fully ripe. Good to know: The amount of red depends on the variety, and has nothing to do with ripeness or quality.
White Flesh: Ripening more quickly than yellow flesh fruit, white flesh peaches and nectarines are good even when they’re not fully ripe.
Sub-acid: Not the most appetizing name, but the taste is another story. Because of the lower acid content, these are sweeter than your average peach or nectarine, and taste good even before they are ripe.
Saturn peaches: Flat in shape with a slight depression in the middle, these little fruits are also known as donut peaches because that’s what they look like. They are intensely sweet, with creamy yellow skin and white flesh.
Look for peaches or nectarines with a golden yellow or creamy white color and distinct fruity fragrance. Make sure they are free of bruises or blemishes, and handle very carefully. The riper and more delicious the fruit, the more fragile it is.
To ripen peaches and nectarines, store them at room temperature. Don’t put them on a windowsill or in direct sunlight, because the intense heat damages the fruit. To speed up ripening, store the fruit in a single layer in a paper bag with the top closed, making sure to check on it often. Why not store unripe fruit in the fridge? Because the cool temperatures can cause the flesh to break down and turn dry, flavorless and mealy. Not good. But once the fruit is tender and ripe, it’s okay to refrigerate for up to a week.