THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED ON GREAT COUNTRY FARMS.

It’s peak peach picking season and 2017 may well be the “Year of the Peach” in Virginia.

 

Growing conditions, including a mild winter, regular spring rains and a dry June, have enhanced the sugars and culminated into a fantastic peach crop statewide according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture.  Some varieties can be so plentiful that the weight of the fruit bends the peach tree limbs close to the ground.  Now is the time to savor this sweet treat of summer. The fragrance in the orchard is like sunshine, and the trickle of fresh peach juice down your chin is truly something to savor.  Here are 10 tips to help you pick some to eat,  some for baking, and some for freezing to bring memories of summer sunshine to a cold winter’s day.

  1. Get out early to beat the heat of the day and for the best picking selection. Bring a cooler with ice packs to hold your bounty if you plan a full day in the country.
  2. Dress for the weather with a hat, sunscreen and bug spray. Wear closed toed shoes and bring a water bottle to stay hydrated.
  3. Shake the limb… if the orchard is using minimal pesticides, there may be some June Bugs enjoying the fruit. Be sure to jiggle the tree limb gently to encourage them to fly away before picking.
  4. Gently pull the fruit from the branch… if it does not come off easily it may need a few more days on the tree.
  5. Avoid fruit that has fallen on the ground as it may have bees or is most likely damaged from the fall from the tree.
  6. Use a box or sturdy shallow container for picking. Peaches bruise easily so a bag can be filled with peach juice if it is bumped around too much. Don’t pile the peaches too high as the ones on the bottom of the container may bruise.  If you bring your own containers, have them weighed before picking so you don’t have to move your fruit for weighing for purchase.
  7. Pay for what you pick…remember the orchard is the farmer’s livelihood and their peach revenue has to last them through the winter until the next peach season! If you’re picking a lot, ask if a bulk rate is available.
  8. Peaches will ripen further on the counter at home. To speed ripening, place them in a paper bag and check each day for softening. Once your peaches are fully ripe, refrigerate them for up to a week  or freeze them for smoothies and ice cream.
  9. Pick enough to freeze for the winter so you can bring out some summer sunshine on a cold day. Here are some great freezing guidelines from the folks at PickyourOwn.org.
  10. Peaches are super versatile and can be used in salsa, salads, grilled, and in a myriad of desserts. Check out these 25 Peach Recipes to Make this summer from thekitchn.com.

 

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