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It’s officially peak peach season and we couldn't be more thrilled for peach pies, crisps, cobblers, and stone-fruit salads. Under one condition: the peaches have to be soft, sweet, and juicy. If you’ve ever tried to cut into a rock-hard peach and heard the loud, traumatic cracking sound as you forcefully rip the flesh from the pit, you know there’s almost nothing worse. Drippy chin and hands fully covered or don't even bother.

What’s the best way to pick a peach that’s perfectly ripe? Here are a few easy pointers. Once you've found The One, try out one of these delicious peach recipes.

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What to Look For

Color comes first. The best peaches should have vibrant, yellow flesh and golden-reddish skin. Look towards the stem: a lighter yellow tone is a sign of a less ripe peach; brighter golden hues are signs of ripeness. Skip over fruits with any green spots, bruises, dents, or flat areas. Also, avoid peaches with wrinkly skin—this likely means they were chilled after being harvested and are dried out.

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What to Smell

The scent of a peach is directly correlated to the taste. If you give it a whiff and smell nothing, that likely means it'll taste like nothing, too. This isn’t always the case (depending on the variety), but generally speaking, stone fruits you’ll find at the farmer’s market should be noticeably fragrant.

What to Feel

A gentle press of a peach will tell you a lot. Squeeze on the side or at the stem: if it’s slightly soft (it should give to a bit of pressure), this means the fruit is ripe. Firmness is a sign that your peach is underripe. Because you probably want to enjoy your peaches over the course of several days, it’s a good idea to buy a range of ripeness levels.

Plan Ahead

Think about when you’d like to enjoy your peaches. If you’ll be baking a pie for a picnic that’s today, go for peak-ripeness; if you want to throw them on the grill three days from now, find a few that are firmer and lighter in color.

Store Smarter

Make sure to store your peaches at room temperature. Keep them stem-side down in a single layer to avoid bruising. If they start to get overripe before you’ve eaten them, go ahead and toss peaches in the crisper drawer in your fridge.

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