Fresh, juicy peaches are a sure sign of summer, and nothing beats biting into a peach you grew in your own backyard! If you’ve tried growing your own and it’s time to start picking peaches off your trees, you might be wondering what you need to know in order to learn how to harvest peaches the right way and at the right time.
Follow this guide to learn how to harvest peaches to reap the delicious rewards of your efforts, plus other helpful information on how to store and use them.
When to Harvest Peaches
Before you can learn how to harvest peaches, you’ll need to know how to properly time your harvest.
Figuring out when to harvest peaches can be a little tricky at first: peaches will only fully ripen and reach peak sweetness while still on the tree, but you won’t be the only one looking for a juicy snack. Bugs and animals alike will be on the lookout for ripe fruits and veggies to eat, so it’s a delicate balance between being patient enough for your peaches to become ripe and being quick enough to harvest them before someone else gets there first.
Depending on the variety, peach trees will typically be ready to bear fruit between two and four years of growth. You’ll begin to see peaches around three to five months after the blossoms are pollinated.
Peak peach picking season will change based on your area and the type of peach you’re growing, but is usually late June through August, making peaches the ultimate harbinger of summertime.
When learning how to harvest peaches, the first places on the tree to start watching will be the top and outside, where the tree receives the most sunlight and airflow.
Keep an eye out for peaches with bright golden-yellow skin, often with a blush of red in one spot, and typically a golden stem as well. Any fruits that still show green aren’t ready yet, so leave them be for now. Peaches that should be avoided will have bruises, damage from bugs or other animals, and wrinkled skin.
Some marks, however, are merely aesthetic and won’t affect the flavor or quality of the peach, so they’re still perfect for home use if you don’t plan to sell them to customers.
Another good sign of a ripe peach is the smell; this is a more subtle trick for how to harvest peaches, but if you check carefully, they’ll have a noticeable fragrant classic peach scent. If the color and smell seem right, give them a very gentle squeeze. Ripe peaches will have just a little bit of give to them. Too firm with no give means they’re not yet ripe, and if they squish under your fingers, you’ve missed the ripeness window for that fruit.
Ultimately, the best way to determine how ripe a peach is, and to learn exactly what you’re looking for in the future, is to do a taste test. Try a few that are at slightly different stages, and you’ll know right away which ones are ready to pick. Make a note of the properties of your ripest, juiciest, sweetest peach, and make sure to use that as the standard going forward.
Another tip for how to harvest peaches: it’s also a good idea to harvest at a few different levels of ripeness if you plan to enjoy them fresh. This way they’ll continue to soften up over the course of a couple of days, so you’ll have perfectly ripe peaches daily. Just like figuring out how to pick the perfect peaches, this will take a little trial and error to master.
How to Harvest Peaches
Now that you’ve gotten a feel for what to look for while starting to learn how to harvest peaches, it’s time to start picking peaches!
Here’s how to harvest peaches: take hold of them gently to avoid bruising and give a slight twist as you pull. If the peach is ripe, it should come off the branch easily.
Place gently in a basket and try not to pile them up too much or they might bruise each other. Congratulations, you’ve just harvested your first peach! Take a bite to celebrate and revel in the sweet juice running down your chin.
Keeping Pests Off Your Peaches
Nothing is more frustrating than looking at your peach trees, deciding that they’re just about ready, and coming out to pick them the next day only to find that some critter has beaten you to it. Just like you, the local wildlife is also waiting for the perfect moment to bite into those peaches.
It’ll take a bit of practice to get the timing right, but the best and simplest way to avoid this problem is by learning how to harvest peaches just before they’re perfectly ripe.
You can also add fencing and bird netting to keep animals off. Pesticides are also an option to fend off creepy crawlies, but be sure to do your research and use them properly.
How to Store Peaches
Now that you have your bounty of beautiful peaches plucked, you want to make sure to store them the right way.
For peaches you want to keep around for snacking, they should be at room temperature, stem side down, and in a single layer so they don’t bruise. They’ll be good for a few days before they start to degrade and get too soft. You can stretch them a bit by putting them in a plastic bag in your fridge.
If you had to harvest peaches on the early side, either to get them before a critter did or because of the weather, put them in a closed paper bag at room temperature. While they won’t continue to get sweeter once you’ve picked them, they will soften up a bit.
Unless you’re living exclusively off of peaches in the summer, you’ll probably end up with more than you can really eat at once. Peaches are easy to preserve in other ways, including canning, freezing, and making them into jams, jellies, preserves, and peach butter.
A great way to enjoy your peach harvest year-round is to can them in glass jars. Canning is a very specific process that must be done properly in order to safely preserve food, but you’ll be rewarded with juicy peaches whenever you want them.
To freeze your harvested peaches, slice or cut them up first. Place on a cookie sheet in the freezer, then out them in a ziploc bag once frozen. Pop them in the blender for a delicious smoothie, or let them thaw and bake a pie for a bit of summer even in the middle of winter.
Turning your peaches into a spread makes them super versatile! It’s easy to make peach jam or even peach butter to spread on your toast every morning, and they usually last a long time. You can easily adapt this recipe, originally for apricot jam, and swap in peaches.
Other Tips for Growing Peaches
Of course, the best peaches come from the best cared-for trees. To boost your chances of success, start by planting your started peach trees in late winter or early spring while they’re dormant, either before or after the frost. Your trees will also require adequate water and fertilizer, and be sure to prune as needed to allow sunlight and air to circulate around the whole tree.
Try planting different varieties for different uses, and also to aid in cross-pollination.
Now You Know How to Harvest Peaches—Ready to Learn More?
Peaches are a great fruit to grow in your backyard, and you might be surprised at how easy it is to learn how to harvest peaches of your own. Knowing the best way to pick peaches will ensure you have fresh, delicious peaches to eat on their own or use in a multitude of amazing recipes.
To learn even more about peaches, you can find everything you need to know in our peach section!