( Photo by The Packer staff )

You’d think I’d know how to pick a good peach by now.

After all, I’ve been researching and writing about food for more than 12 years as a journalist. I love to cook and try new things.

But we can all use some schooling, according to Produce Retailer’s July/August “Back to (Produce) School” issue. It’s a great chance for merchandisers, marketers, produce managers — or anyone who influences the message consumers receive. 

Choosing the right fruit and storing it correctly takes continuous education, practice and humility. As summer rolled around, I felt confident I could pick a perfectly ripe, juicy, sweet peach. I’ve gleaned these tips over the years:

Step 1: Wait for peach season in your region and choose the peach grown closest to home, based on the origin label or sign.
Step 2: Gently squeeze and take home the peach that’s not too hard, not too soft, Goldilocks style.
Step 3: Eat it now, let it sit on the counter a day before eating, or put it in the refrigerator to slow ripening if you can’t eat it for a few days.
Step 4: Take a bite and watch the nectar dribble down your hand as you groan in sweet peach ecstasy. Instagram about it. (Extra credit)

The first three steps take practice. Yet I failed, despite my training.

Excited about peach season, I scoured my neighborhood grocery store for local, regional or at least U.S.-grown peaches. I should’ve waited. Or maybe I just picked the wrong one.
The fuzzy orange orb had a “USA” label on it. Once home, my hopes sank at first bite: The texture was mealy and bland. It was almost toss-able.

A week later, my CSA’s biweekly harvest arrived. Success! Peach nirvana reached.

Then two days ago, I again passed that same grocery store with the disappointing offering and contemplated a rematch because I spotted a new sign that says “New Jersey-Grown Peaches.” 

Point-of-sale signs are ripe opportunities to educate shoppers, especially when there are a lot of stock-keeping units, Produce Retailer editor Ashley Nickle said in a stone-fruit focused episode of The Packer’s Millennials Eat video series. 

You can’t overstate the obvious here.

The Packer’s 2019 Fresh Trends report reveals only 46% of us are confident about our ability to select a peach at prime ripeness. And that’s the fourth-highest confidence level of all the fresh produce studied.

I recently Instagram-messaged with a friend who’s a recipe developer, food writer and cookbook author. She told me she accidentally bought meh peaches — at her farmers market.

Many food experts are having a hard time with this. What’s an average shopper supposed to do? Not everyone can wait in line for 25-pound boxes of perfect peaches from Nashville’s The Peach Truck as many do, according to Kate Heddings’ July 11 article in The Washington Post

After taking all these factors into account, there’s an element of chance that remains. Increase your shoppers’ odds with more education, so they can gain more consumer confidence.

When they score a perfectly ripe, juicy sweet peach, you may have a loyal customer for life.

Amy Sowder is The Packer’s Brooklyn-based Northeast editor. E-mail her at [email protected]

Related content:
Millennials Eat — Stone Fruit!
Back to (produce) school — Educate your shoppers this fall 
Peaches 101