Welcome to your Best Ever Guide to Peach Picking in BC!
Canadian peaches are some of the best in the world, and this delicious, soft fruit is one of British Columbia’s most celebrated sweet fruits. They are even attractive to look at–why else would companies use the word ‘peach’ to refer to a colour, for everything from clothing and lipstick, to paint and carpet?
Since the 1780s, peaches have been grown in British Columbia, and thrive in the area’s southern orchards. Not many regions this far north can grow peaches successfully, but if you’ve ever tried peach picking in BC, you know that this area does!
Peaches are native to China, but like many fruits, made their way around the world throughout the centuries. Eighty percent of BC varieties feature sweet, soft, juicy textures and are best for fresh consumption, while the remaining percent have a rubbery type consistency that makes them excellent for machine processing.
Peaches are ideal for sweet recipes and desserts, but don’t overlook the fact that they also blend perfectly in many savoury dishes that call for toppings, sauces and glazes. These include salads, meats, and even pizza. Peaches are delicious frozen, canned, cooked or fresh, and nothing says late summer better than getting your fingers sticky with the delicious juice of the peach. If you are a fan of British Columbia and this tasty fruit, make a day of it and pick some BC peaches.
Harvest Season for Peaches
The peach tree’s famous pink blossoms are seen as early as late April or as late as mid-May, but the fruit takes a bit longer to ripen. The technical peach picking season begins around the first week of July in most years, and continues throughout the end of September. In particularly hot years, it may extend a week or two into October, but this is the exception to the rule.
There is an abundance of peach varieties throughout the world, but some of them grow particularly well in British Columbia. One thing for sure, whichever one you choose for your peach picking excursion, you will not be disappointed. Below are some favourite varieties of BC peaches:
Early Sunrise peaches are typically the first peach variety available for picking in various areas of British Columbia, and are usually plump and ripe by the second week of July. They are a juicy, potently sweet variety that’s equally suitable for fresh eating or baking.
Early Red Haven
As their name implies, Early Red Haven peaches are usually available at the beginning of the season, from the middle of July until the middle of August. They are sweet, and exceptionally juicy, and feature a bright colour. Similar to Early Sunrise varieties, these peaches are good for making delicious desserts or fresh eating.
Red Haven peaches are renowned as a terrific canning peach. Once fully ripe, they pull easily from the pit, and offer a high sugar content and fantastic sweet flavour. A first choice for canning, due to their sugar content, they are also a fun but messy variety to eat fresh. They have vibrant, yellow skin with a blush, and are particularly fuzzy. They’re usually available from late July to the end of the peach picking season and are known for a great shelf life.
Glow Haven peaches ripen by early August and feature a dark red hue. They are known for a distinctive ‘red tiger stripe’ in their colouring, and have an incredibly potent flavour. Their sweetness makes them perfect for eating fresh, but their juiciness also makes them great for canning and making jams.
The Crest Haven peach boasts a unique dark yellow colour, with a mild red blush, and is usually harvested from late August to late September. This peach is definitely best for fresh eating, and features a very sweet, bold flavour. These peaches also make great cobbler and other desserts that do not require excessive juice.
Donut peaches–also called flat peaches due to their shape–are yellowish orange, and have a distinct almond note in their taste. They are extremely sweet. They are best suited for fresh eating, and typically ripen early in the season. In particularly warm years, they may even ripen ahead of the season, as early as the end of May.
White Lady Peaches
White Lady peaches have a base colour anywhere from ivory to orange with a rosy blush. The inside of the fruit is particularly pale, and features a buttery soft texture. They are not as sweet as most peach varieties, but have a smooth, subtle taste that makes them a great snack. They are not as suitable for cooking as other varieties, but are known for a great shelf life. They are typically harvested throughout the month of July.
Fair Haven peaches are somewhat larger and firmer than other varieties, and are excellent for cooking and baking. They have a honey-sweet taste that some people find excessively sweet, but others love, so you be the judge when experimenting with this delicious peach. Fair Haven peaches are usually harvested early in the season, at the beginning of July.
How to Pick BC Peaches
If you are planning a British Columbia peach picking excursion but are wondering if there’s anything you need to know, you’ll be pleased to discover that picking this delicious fruit is easy. Provided you avoid bruising your harvest of peaches–and this can happen easily–there are not any complex techniques you need to follow. Below are some tips to make your excursion successful:
The Nose Knows
Unlike some fruits that you must evaluate in various ways to determine ripeness, you can let your nose be your guide when picking peaches. Like apples, they are a member of the Rose family, but the biggest indicator of whether or not they are ready to be harvested is their fragrance. When on your outing, you will likely even notice that the aroma may differ from one peach to another on the same tree! Therefore, let this be your first ‘litmus test.’
Always select peaches that feature a healthy blush and bright colour. If they have any green or white in their skin, they are probably not quite ready. It is possible to ripen peaches after they are picked, but if your goal is to come home with fruit that is immediately edible, screen out the ones that still have white or green shading on the skin.
The Texture Test
A ripe peach has a bit of ‘give,’ and you can easily test this, just don’t use too much pressure because peaches bruise easily. The curved part of the fruit around the stem, referred to by those in the industry as the ‘shoulders’ of the peach, is a good place to do your test. If it is quite firm, it should be left on the tree. If it has a bit of give, it’s probably ready for harvest. Your nose can help you out again for this task: if you squeeze the fruit and it has a give similar to the tip of your nose, go ahead and pick it.
Rescuing Soft Peaches
If you do happen to notice some peaches that feel too soft but still smell great, these can be turned into jellies and jams as long as you use them right away. Therefore, if one of your goals was to make some of these tasty treats, don’t leave those squishy peaches behind.
How to Store Peaches
Like most fruits, proper storage is essential to keep your peaches fresh. Fortunately, there are many ways to store them, from simple to complex, but this gives you the opportunity to choose the one that works best for you. Below are some ways to extend the shelflife of your peach harvest:
The simplest way to store your peaches is to leave them unwashed, place them in large bowls or containers, cover them, and put them in the refrigerator. However, it’s important to understand that unless you are going to use them in approximately a week, you will need to choose a different method. For short-term storage, though, this is the best approach.
Use Airtight Containers
If you don’t think you’ll use up all your peaches in a week, you can still store them in the refrigerator, but you should use a slightly more complicated method. Pit the peaches and cut them into cubes or slices, and place them in airtight containers. The cold air will prevent them from further ripening, and the airtight container will stop them from turning brown. Keep in mind, though, that this will only extend their life approximately another week until you will have to use or freeze them.
If your peaches are not quite ripe, but almost there, and you have a cool, dry pantry, this method may be a great choice. Use trays or plates to arrange peaches, making sure they don’t touch each other, and they will last for up to 10 days. If they are super ripe already, though, this method is not recommended.
Regardless of how you store your peaches, be aware that they oxidise similar to avocados, potatoes and apples. The same trick that works for the latter will work for peaches as well. Sprinkle lemon juice directly on the flesh of the fruit or submerge your peaches in a mixture of cold water and lemon juice. Only use about a tablespoon of lemon juice to a gallon of water. The lemon juice’s acid content inactivates the oxidising process.
How to Freeze Peaches
Some fruits don’t do well when frozen, and peaches are arguably in this category. This is primarily because they take on moisture when frozen and, after thawing, are quite mushy. However, if the primary use for your peaches will be cooking and baking, this probably won’t matter for most recipes.
Blanching and Freezing Peaches
To blanch and freeze peaches properly, score an “X” on the bottom of each piece of fruit before you blanch them. Next, carefully place them one by one into boiling water for approximately 30 seconds. After this, immediately plunge them into a bowl of ice water. They can then be frozen in slices or whole, but make sure to skin them first. Initially, freeze them in a single layer on baking sheets, and then transfer them to freezer bags later. It should take about an hour for them to freeze enough to be transferred into plastic bags.
How to Ripen Peaches
If you decide to pick some peaches that were not quite fully ripened, you’ll be pleased to find that it is possible to ripen them after they are picked. The best way to do this is to position them stem side down on large plates or cutting boards, and allow them to sit at room temperature for several days.
Make sure the area in which you place them has a consistently warm temperature, but don’t place them in direct sunlight. Because of their aroma, beware that they will attract insects that may try to eat them before you do, so keep this in mind when choosing a location. If necessary, use mini mesh tents to keep pests away.
How to Peel Peaches
Peaches are not difficult to peel if you know the proper techniques to use. Although it is possible to peel them with a small paring knife, this method is not recommended, since the tendency is to lose a lot of the fruit itself, as opposed to just the skin.
Blanching the Preferred Method
Using the blanching method ensures that you get the majority of your fruit. This technique begins with boiling a pot of water. At the same time, set aside a bucket or large bowl of cold water and several ice cubes.
Plunge your peaches into the boiling water for up to one minute, then with a slotted spoon, remove them and submerge them in the ice water immediately. Allow them to stay submerged for approximately two minutes, and when you retrieve them, the skins should peel off easily in your hand.
Even if your peaches are not fully ripened, the skin should still easily slip off. For peaches that are still a bit green, you can now use a small paring knife to pull off the skin, and since they were blanched, you won’t lose a significant amount of the fruit this time.
The Microwave Alternative
This process can be done with the microwave as well, but this is less preferable than the traditional approach. If you need to use a microwave, place an appropriate number of peaches–which depends on the size of your microwave–inside the oven and cook them at full power for 15 seconds. Allow them to stand for two minutes, and then repeat the final steps above. Just make sure the peaches are spaced properly in the microwave and are not touching.
Facts and Tips
Everyone has heard the phrase, ‘you are a peach,’ and it is always meant as a compliment. This is because peaches are one of those happy fruits that seem to engender smiles and warm feelings. Peaches are also a fascinating fruit with their interesting appearance and characteristics. Here are some fun facts about this delectable orchard fruit:
A peach is considered a ‘stone fruit.’ This may seem a bit comical, since peaches are always thought of for their soft, juicy texture and sweet taste. The ‘stone,’ of course, is what we more commonly refer to as a pit, and it is what places peaches in this category. The definition of such fruit is one that features a type of pulp with a single seed at the centre. The job of the ‘pit’ is to protect the seed, and, of course, the pulp, which is the part we consume, nurtures the whole ensemble.
Life Span of a Peach Tree
Another fascinating fact about peaches is the lifespan of the tree itself. Interestingly, some trees live for hundreds or thousands of years, but the lifespan of most peach trees is a little over a decade!
Alexander the Great Discovered Peaches
Peaches were discovered by Alexander the Great in Persia. It was he who introduced them to the Greeks, mentioning over half a dozen different variations. They were popular in Greece, but it was actually the Romans who transported them north and west, and eventually to Europe. The Romans were also the first to refer to peaches as ‘Persian apples,’ and they are still called this in certain countries.
Member of the Rose Family
Peaches are a close relative to the almond nut, but are technically a member of the Rose family as are cherries, so it’s not surprising that their blossoms are similarly brilliant. However, unlike cherries or plum blossoms, peach blossoms are always some shade of pink.
Peach Fuzz is a Defence Mechanism
The distinct fuzzy layer that sets peaches apart from nectarines and other similar fruits is actually there to protect the fruit from anything that may be detrimental to the health of the tree. This includes diseases, pests, blemishes from inclement weather or sun exposure, and even animals.
Health Benefits of Peaches
Most people have heard that experts recommend eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day to maintain good health. A peach is a great choice to keep up with this tally, since it is full of vitamins and offers myriad health benefits. Below are just a few of the health advantages associated with eating peaches:
Strengthens Immune System
There are several ways that peaches support immune health. Much of the human body’s immunity comes from necessary vitamins and minerals that protect cells and help them to function at an optimum level. Because peaches are rich in vitamin A and vitamin C, two vitamins that protect immune cells, they deliver a powerful boost to the immune system. In addition, they contain specific antimicrobial properties, which help the body to fight off germs and bacteria that lead to illness.
Bone Loss Prevention and Lower Blood Pressure
It is well known that potassium helps to balance salt intake, the latter of which can lead to high blood pressure if consumed in excess. Potassium also helps to prevent bone loss, but experts recommend approximately 4,700 milligrams of potassium on a daily basis to recognize these benefits. Most nutritionists agree that it’s much better to get vitamins and minerals from food than from supplements, and just one small peach boasts 285 milligrams of potassium.
Enhances Digestive Health
One average-sized speech contains 1.5 g of insoluble fibre, the latter of which is known to help manage blood sugar, support gut health, and help prevent constipation. Additionally, most peaches contain something referred to as ‘prebiotics’ which are linked to anti-inflammation, a better mood, and boosted immunity. Prebiotics feed beneficial bacteria in the digestive system, which results in these great benefits.
Peaches are loaded with antioxidants, which are well-known to prevent oxidative damage, and subsequently cancer. So for a great cancer fighting snack, indulge in a peach. Additionally, these same antioxidants often lead to a healthier, more radiant complexion, as they also have a positive impact on skin health.
Boosts Heart Health
Although virtually any fruit can be part of a heart healthy diet, peaches have some specific benefits, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Research conducted on animals indicated that peaches cannot only help lower high blood pressure, they can help keep cholesterol levels within the normal range. Both blood pressure and cholesterol have a significant impact on the heart, which makes fruit such as peaches an ideal snack for anyone following a heart healthy diet.
Where to Pick BC Peaches
Probably all you want to know now is “where can I do some peach picking in British Columbia?” Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to acquire BC peaches, but if you want to pick them yourself, we recommend the following farms:
Peach Picking Kelowna, BC
If you are looking for Early Red Haven peaches, stop by this lovely farm that’s known for friendliness, great prices and high quality fruit. They also have a farmer’s market on site.
Kuipers Family Fruit Farm offers Fair Haven peaches and they also sell fresh fruit and smoothies at their on-site stand.
Peach Picking West Kelowna, BC
Explore the friendly orchard at Paynters, where a broad variety of peaches can be found in a picturesque, unspoiled environment.
You can’t go wrong at Griffin Farms, a favourite of visitors and locals alike, where you can pick high-quality, fresh peaches for cooking and eating.
Peach Picking Lake Country, BC
Renowned for their Red Haven peaches, Gambell Farms offers U-pick opportunities during peach picking season and a friendly staff is always on hand to answer questions.
Gatzke Orchards Farm Market offers a great peach picking experience, with eight varieties available. There is also on-site shopping and dining available, as well as bike rentals.
This family-friendly U-pick farm features a beautiful orchard for a day of peach picking fun. In addition, kids activities are provided during the picking season, and shaved ice and fresh fruit can be purchased from their on-site farmer’s market.
At Rose Hill Orchards you can enjoy great peach picking and then indulge in a cold drink or pastry at the Rose Hill Kitchen, which is open throughout the season.
Peach Picking Vernon, BC
One of the Okanagan’s best known orchards, Davison Orchards Country Village offers five peach varieties, fresh for the picking, and will even let you in on their peach salsa recipe. A child-friendly establishment, there is also an on-site playground and petting farm.
Peter’s U-Pick Orchard is a family fruit farm that spans 10 beautiful acres, and offers outstanding peach picking opportunities, as well as direct fruit sales from their farmer’s market.
Since the mid-1920s, this lovely 25-acre family-owned orchard has been growing exceptionally high quality fruit, including peaches. Three great cooking varieties are available for the picking at this friendly establishment.
Peach Picking Oliver, BC
Enjoy picking your own peaches at Covert Farms, and if you like, you can also indulge in a wine tasting excursion at the same establishment. Peach picking at Covert Farms is by appointment only.
This family-owned and operated farm offers terrific Glow Haven and Red Haven peaches, and you will likely be very pleased with the quality of the fruit and the friendliness of the staff.
Peach Picking Summerland, BC
The Trout Creek Fruit Stand offers fantastic peach picking excursions. It has been family owned and run since 1995. Parking for RVs and other large vehicles is available, which offer beautiful views of the orchards in the back of the main building.