How to Ripen Peaches (Because No One Wants to Eat Rock-Hard Stone Fruit)

Truly, there’s nothing more satisfying than a ripe peach—one with just a little bit of bite and juices that run all the way down your arm. (Nothing, that is, except for a slice of warm peach pie with vanilla ice cream.) Which is why we get a little bit, um, impatient when we get back from the farmers market and discover that our haul is as hard as a bucket of rocks. Sure, you could just keep them on the counter for four or five days and wait for them to soften up. But whether we’ve got pastry ready in the pie dish or we just can’t wait for a bite of our favorite fruit, we’re always trying to speed up the ripening process. And believe it or not, all you have to do is put the fruit in a paper bag—here’s how we do it. 

The Fastest Way To Ripen Peaches

  1. Grab a paper bag. Any shopping or grocery bag will do, as long as it’s big enough to fold down the top. Peaches naturally give off ethylene gas, and the thin paper is a great way to trap it without creating too much moisture.
  2. Toss in the fruit. Load up the bag with all the peaches you want to ripen. (To speed up the process, add an already ripe apple or banana; they give off even more ethylene gas than peaches, so throwing them in with the unripe fruit is a game changer.) Fold or crumple the top of the bag to keep the gas inside and you’re good to go. 
  3. Let them sit. We know: Being in such close proximity to almost perfect summer fruit is a true test of patience. But ripening does take time, even under the best of circumstances. Leave your peaches in a cool, dry place and go about your business.
  4. Check the peaches. After 24 hours, go give your peaches a little look-see. You’ll know they’re ready when they give off a sweet scent (we’re getting hungry already) and are slightly soft when you press them. If they’re not ready yet, summon your willpower and leave them for another 24 hours. 
  5. Enjoy. And voilà! As promised, within a day or two, you should have beautiful, ripe peaches. They’ll stay good at room temperature for several more days, or you can put them in the fridge (but more about that below).

But What If I Don’t Have a Paper Bag?

No problem. If you can’t find a good paper bag, use two clean linen napkins instead. Spread one napkin out on a clean surface. Next, put the peaches in the center of the napkin so that none of them are touching each other. Then, cover the peaches with a second napkin and tuck all the sides under the bundle so that no air can get in. Note: This method takes a little longer (generally two to three days) but often yields sweeter fruit in the end.

How to Slow Down the Ripening Process

It happens: You have a beautiful bowl of ripe peaches on the kitchen counter, but by the time you get to those guys at the bottom, they’re mushy, mealy and completely ruined. The solution? When the peaches reach their optimal ripeness, pop them into the fridge if you’re not planning to use them within 24 hours. They’ll stay just the way you like them for up to a week, and you won’t have to throw out any of your precious peaches. (Phew.)