In the summertime, we look forward to vibrant and juicy fruits that offer us crisp and refreshing tastes to cool down under the hot sun. This is a time where many of the fruits associated with the summer season reach peak ripeness and flavour. From July through August, our province produces some of the sweetest peaches available. You can use these honey-sweet, tender fruits in all sorts of ways whether it’s in a sweet peach crumble, a spicey chutney, or on the smoky barbecue. As you scroll down, you’ll learn about where they come from, ways to enjoy them, and a few interesting facts you may not have known about this scrumptious fruit! 

Harvested peaches in orchard

Where Are They Grown?

Tender fruits like peaches, apricots, and nectarines require moderate to temperate climate conditions for a successful crop. This means that seasonal changes and weather patterns need to be relatively consistent to ensure that the delicate fruits can survive. Focusing in on Ontario, the Niagara Peninsula offers ideal growing conditions due to the natural boundaries of Lake Ontario and the Niagara Escarpment. The lake plays a major role in the local climate’s stability by absorbing heat during the summer months and slowly releasing it during the winter, therefore, extending the growing season. It also warms cool breezes in the winter and cools down hot breezes in the summer to create more stable temperatures. This all culminates in a unique area known as the “Niagara Fruit Belt” where over 90% of Ontario tender fruits are grown.

That’s A LOT of peaches!  

picking peaches.
Crates of picked peaches.
woman picking peaches
Peaches in a basket.

Peachy Tidbits

  • Over 80% of Canadian-grown peaches are from Niagara. 
  • Tender fruit is also grown along the southern-most areas of Ontario along Lake Erie. 
  • They can grow right into the fall season. 
  • There are three main categories that peaches are classified under. 
    • Clingstone – varieties where the flesh sticks to the stone (seed). 
      • Available, May to August. 
    • Semi-freestone – varieties where flesh slightly clings to the stone. 
      • Available, mid-July to mid-August.
    • Freestone – varieties where the flesh easily separates from the stone (seed). 
      • Available, mid-August to the end of September. 

What to do with them.

Pick ’em

Summer is the best time to get acquainted with nature and learn about all the wonderful kinds of local produce we have available. For us, having a strong connection with how foods are grown, raised, picked, and prepared is central in understanding the value of all the ingredients we source. A “pick-your-own” experience is a wonderful way to enjoy fresh, ripe peaches at their peak sweetness. Plan a trip to the beautiful orchards where these delicious stone fruits grow and explore the culinary landscape of the surrounding towns!  

Check out this link for some helpful tips on where to start: Ontario’s Best Peach Picking Spots | Ontario Culinary

Choosing Your Peaches:
  • Avoid fruit with any green patches. This indicates they were picked too early. 
  • They should be free of bruises or marks.  
  • Most peaches should have that signature “peachy” smell. 
    • Some varieties don’t have a strong scent, but should still be fragrant. 
  • Colours should be vibrant with a mix of deep yellow and blush. 
    • The blush of a peach indicates what variety it is; not its ripeness. 
  • The skin should feel tight, soft, not wrinkled, and slightly fuzzy. 
  • Select multiple levels of ripeness. 
    • This avoids waste and helps prevent ripening all at once. 

Firmness Levels (Ripeness)

Like many fruits, peaches should feel dense and have a good weight when being handled and selected. Generally, the flesh should be firm with a slight tenderness to the touch. Here is a firmness guide to give you an idea on how to choose your fruit according to touch. 

Baseball-hard – Are very firm and should be avoided as they were most likely picked before optimal harvesting time and will not have the true taste you are looking for. 

Tennis ball hardness – They have a firm, but bouncy texture that can last longer until you are ready to eat them. These are great if you are planning to eat them later in your week and will ripen over time. If you like them firmer, this would be the time to enjoy them.

Optimal hardness – The flesh has a firm texture, but if you squeeze a little harder the peach begins to “give”. They are perfect for eating or using in baking recipes because they will maintain their shape well during cooking. 

Soft – These peaches are tender to the touch and will bruise if squeezed. They are the perfect texture to eat by hand or in a fruit platter.

Ultra-soft – These peaches are VERY soft and can bruise easily from their own weight. They can be considered over-ripe, but have developed a very juicy texture. Enjoy as a messy snack, in chutneys, or sauces!  

Storing Suggestion

  • Wash only when you are ready to eat them! 
  • Lay them in a single layer outside of their original container. 
  • Sort according to ripeness. 
    • Ripe – they have a slightly firm texture and can be put in the fridge or eaten right away. 
    • Firm – they have a bouncy texture and can be stored at room temperature until they reach the desired ripeness. 
    • Softer – should be eaten the day of purchase or by the next day.  

Eat ’em

Honey Grilled Peaches with mint and Greek yogurt.
Honey Grilled Peaches with Greek Yogurt and Mint.

Peaches are often thought of as a sweet treat to be eaten fresh or cooked into a dessert. However, you can use this versatile fruit in a variety of ways from sweet to savoury dishes. Due to their natural honey-like sweetness and slight tartness, they are an excellent umami boost when you’re looking for a touch of sugar in your meal. Poach them to create an even softer, delicate texture. Sauté or roast them to caramelize the natural sugars for a smoky and sweet flavour. Whether it’s for your morning oatmeal or to pair with roasted pork, be adventurous with this tender, juicy, and sugary fruit!

Recipes and ideas!

Grilled peach salad with mozzarella and tomatoes

Grilled Peach Caprese

Ingredients: peaches, mozzarella cheese, basil, cherry tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper. 

A symphony of fresh summer flavours creates a harmonious bite to delight your palate. Aromatic basil, smoky peaches, juicy cherry tomatoes, syrupy balsamic, nutty olive oil, along with salt and pepper, combine to make a seasonal version of this classic salad.

Hack: Try making a quick dressing with our Caramelized Onion & Balsamic Compote.

Spicy Peach Chutney

Ingredients: peaches, fresh chili, chili flakes, cinnamon powder, cardamom, cumin, clove powder, nutmeg, yellow sugar, salt, pepper, garlic, ginger.  

This spiced, jam-like sauce is the ultimate condiment for proteins, on rice, or to make sweet n’ spicy dressings. Simply cook ingredients in a pan until tender, roughly blend, and enjoy. Can be served warm or chilled!

Hack: Use frozen peaches, our Peach Jam, and our Tandoori Spice for an easy chutney.

Peach Melba

Peach Melba

Ingredients: peaches, honey, white wine or apple juice, vanilla ice cream, raspberry sauce, mint. 

This iconic dessert is simple to make and satisfying to taste! Simple simmer and lightly poach your peaches with honey and wine (optional) until tender. Let it cool down and serve with ice cream and raspberry sauce.

Hack: Grab a tub of our Vanilla Vanilla Ice Cream for a decadent scoop of creamy goodness.

More dishes that are just peachy!

Save ’em

Frozen peaches, sliced, diced, and formed into ice cubes.
Frozen (diced, sliced, and in ice cubes)
Preserved (jam and in syrup)

A great way to enjoy seasonal fruits throughout the year is to preserve them. Preservation is a practice that has been refined and utilized for centuries in the absence of refrigeration. There’s lots of ways to do so, but the most common methods are pickling, dehydrating, jarring/canning, and freezing. Below we have a quick set of instructions on how you can save your fresh peaches using the canning method! 

Canning Instructions: 
  1. Make sure all surfaces, glass jars, fruits, and utensils are sterilized. 
  2. Start a large pot of boiling water and fill a large bowl with ice water. 
  3. Prepare peaches by cutting an “x” pattern on the bottom of the fruit along the skin. 
  4. Carefully drop peaches in the boiling water and blanch for 30 seconds. 
  5. Remove from the boiling water and immediately place them in the ice water to cool. 
  6. Prepare another bowl with cold water and lemon juice for an anti-browning solution. 
  7. Peel the fruit, take out the pits, slice, and place in the anti-browning solution. 
  8. In a pot prepare a simple syrup with water and sugar (usually a 2:1 ratio) 
    • Cook on medium heat until sugar is dissolved. 
  9. Place sliced fruit into simple syrup until it reaches a boil and then turn off the heat. 
  10. Pack cooked peaches tightly into glass jars and pour syrup to cover. Leave about a centimeter of space inside the jar. 
  11. Clean the jars and close them tightly with the lids. 
  12. Process the jars by boiling them in a large pot of water for 20 minutes. 
    • Make sure they are completely submerged. 
  13. Allow them to cool completely and then store in a dry and colder area. 
  14. Preserves usually last for up to 12 months.
    • Make sure you are checking for any signs of mold or off-smells before consuming. If you are not sure, it’s best to discard it. 

Preserving Tips

  • Remove the pits and skin.
    • Peel the skin off easily by quickly blanching in boiling water (whole) and then cool in ice water. 
  • Softer fruits are better for jams and jellies. 
  • Firm fruits are better preserved frozen, canned, dehydrated, or jarred. 
  • Peachy ice cubes made with fresh puree and a little juice can make for easy storage and access to the fruit’s zingy taste! 

Did you know? 

  • Ancient Romans thought that peaches came from Persia and so they named it after the Latin word for Persian – prunus persica. The word for peach was formed from this Latin origin.
  • Peaches have been growing since the prehistoric period and are originally from China! 
  • The leaves and bark of peach trees are used in natural teas to treat coughs and bronchitis. 
  • In the 1780’s, it’s believed that Peter Secord (uncle of Laura Secord) was the first British loyalist farmer in Canada. He introduced many tender fruits to the Niagara region. 
  • In 1875 there were 375,000 peach trees in Ontario. No varieties from that period exist today! 
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