Welcome to The Farm Stand, your new guide to seasonal Southern produce. Every week, I’ll serve up the South’s best pickin’s from blueberries to black-eyed peas, muscadines to melons along with tips and recipes for all the delicious plates and put-ups you can make with them.
What better fruit to kick things off than the peach?
From South Carolina’s Cherokee County to Chilton County, Alabama, Southerners are famously persnickety about what state produces the tastiest peach. Sometimes, we even get testy about where to buy them. The farmers market, Piggly Wiggly, out of that one guy’s truck at the Dollar General — there’s limitless options come summertime, and everyone has an opinion on who purveys peach perfection.
Personally, I would drive down a particularly harrowing stretch of US-17 across the Georgia-South Carolina line with 18-wheelers barreling behind me and follow the plywood-and-spray-paint signs to an empty strip club parking lot where my favorites were sold on Saturday afternoons. But, that’s just me.
Regardless of your allegiances, I think we can all agree that one of summer’s best sensations is pulling the still-warm, fuzzy heft of a peach from a plastic thank-you sack and watching blush-colored juice streak down your arms.
- If you’re looking to channel your inner Bobby Flay and throw some halved peaches on the grill, you’ll want to look for freestone peaches, which have flesh that can be separated easily from the pit. Clingstone peaches, which are the first to appear, “cling” to their pits.
- Clingstones are better for canning, while freestones are better for baking and recipes where the peaches need to be cut into more uniform pieces.
- Picking out peaches may seem like it requires a sixth sense, but all you need to look for are ones that aren’t too hard, like a baseball for instance, or too soft, like an empty beer koozie. The flesh should have a slight amount of give when squeezed gently. Sort of like a baseball in a beer koozie.
- Try to buy peaches two to three days before you plan to use them. If you need to extend that time, placing them in the fridge can buy you a few extra days. If you need them to be ripe, like yesterday, put them in a closed paper bag.
- For an easy winter blues cure, freeze peeled and sliced peaches to enjoy on rainy January days. Cut an X in the bottom of each, plunge peaches into boiling water for 1 minute, immediately place in cold water, and remove skins for easy peeling. Make sure to sprinkle and spritz with sugar and lemon juice, and place in a freezer bag in a flat layer.
What to Make
Although there is something magical about eating a just-picked peach, I can also find plenty magic in eating a piece of peach pie with ice cream on the porch. Take advantage of the remaining season with these Fresh Summer Peach Recipes below and check out this how-to video for a peach-and-plum-packed Patchwork Cobbler.
- Brown-Sugar Cinnamon Peach Pie
- Peach Mojitos
- Summer Grilled Peach Salad
- Brown Sugar Pork Chops with Peach Barbecue Sauce
- Watermelon-Peach Salsa and Tomatoes
Where have you found the best peaches in the South?