Nothing feels like summertime quite like taking a bite into a juicy peach—and it's hard not to feel cheated when you bite into an unripe, hard, and mealy one. So how do you know when a peach is ripe and ready to eat? Well, there are a few telltale signs that a peach is ready to eat, starting with its color. According to the folks at the Michigan Peach Sponsors, an organization that works closely with experts at Michigan State University on peach research, if you see any green on the skin of the fruit, the peach is probably not ripe and was probably picked too early.
"The best way to tell if a peach is ripe is by looking for a yellow ground color," the part of the fruit that's not exposed to sun, they explain. You also want to see a reddish blush on the opposite side where the fruit did get sun exposure, and the fruit should look vibrant. Avoid fruits that have visible dark spots and bruises, as well; those are likely overripe.
Smelling the peach is another good way to tell if it's ready to eat. A peach that's not yet ripe won't have a strong smell. But as peaches ripen, their aroma becomes stronger and stronger, and a fully ripe peach will smell, well, like a peach.
But by far the best way to tell if a peach is ripe is by feeling it. You want your peach to have a little bit of give when you gently squeeze it, but not so much that you bruise or poke a hole into the flesh simply by tapping it with your finger. If the peach is rock hard, like a baseball, it was harvested too early. If it's firm with a teeny bit of give, like a tennis ball, it needs a little bit more time to get to that perfectly ripe place.
Fortunately, if you pick a peach at the supermarket or farmer's market that's not quite ready to eat, and still a little firm, you can easily fix that by letting the fruit sit at room temperature, ideally on a counter with some sunlight in a single row so as not to bruise. And if the peaches ripen too quickly, before you even have a chance to eat them, you can store the fruit in the fridge for a day or two to stop the process from continuing. Just be sure not to keep them in there for too long, because they may dry out or start to get mealy.