A Great Tasting Peach Is A Complicated Endeavor
Everyone loves a great-tasting peach, but selecting the right variety to grow from a nursery catalog is not easy. Taste is personal and cultural. Fuzzy skin is enjoyable for some people, or a strong turn-off for others. A typical high-acid peach common in the U.S. can be a taste shock to someone from Japan or China accustomed to a mild, low-acid peach. To further complicate the situation, how a peach is grown and harvested can affect peach flavor.
Great Taste Is Not Always Enough
The right peach variety depends on whether the peach is eaten fresh or processed. Peach varieties like ‘Redhaven’ with a relatively high sugar/acid balance and semi-coarse texture are great for fresh market consumption but, like most melting flesh peaches, soften quickly and becoming ragged-looking in the canning jar.
Peaches that do best for commercial and home-canning market are those varieties like ‘Babygold’ or ‘Loring’ with a firm- and fine-textured flesh that retains firmness in liquid.
Fine-textured firm varieties are prized for canning, but do not necessarily have the juicy quality that fresh market consumers are looking for. A less juicy, but relatively crunchy peach, such as the new variety ‘Gloria’ from New Jersey, is what might be called a commuter peach — one that can be eaten in a car without dripping on clothes. ‘Gloria,’ on the other hand, although firm and freestone, is less suited for home canning because the peel is hard to remove.
Know When to Hold Them
Non-melting flesh peaches such as the ‘Babygold’ series are strongly clingstone peaches, meaning the pit adheres tightly to the flesh. These are the peaches commonly found as slices in salad bars because of their ability to remain firm when canned.
This type of peach works well in early season varieties and in warmer climates since the firm flesh allows the fruit to be left on the tree to develop full flavor. On the other hand, non-melting flesh peaches can develop unpleasant melon-like flavors if overmature.
One of the marks of a good flavored peach variety is “hanging ability.” Many peaches taste good when sampled at the peak of flavor, but fewer are palatable when past their prime.
Part of the reason for the popularity of ‘Redhaven,’ ‘Loring,’ and ‘Bellaire’ is their retention of flavor when very soft. Firm-flesh peaches, such as ‘PF23’ and ‘Victoria,’ may tempt some growers to delay picking too long, and run the risk of overmature flavors.
Mealy flesh texture is also a problem of some late season, slow-softening peach varieties. This can be particularly troublesome if the grower tries to extend his peach season by storing a large quantity of the last peach variety of the season.