Few things are more delicious than a perfectly ripe and juicy summer peach. The first sweet and succulent bite that leaves peach juices dripping down your hand is something we dream about all year long. Sadly, it never seems like this classic summer fruit is ready when you want it to be. You get home and realize that the peaches you purchased at market are underripe, tasteless and hard — nothing like a good peach should be! But then you let them sit out to ripen, and soon you have too many to eat at once. With a little care and patience, you can control when your peaches are ready and exactly how firm or soft they are.
Here are a few secrets on how to ripen peaches so they’re ready when you are:
1. Keep it sweet and simple
If your peaches aren’t quite ready to eat, and you’re willing to wait for them to ripen at a natural pace, leave them on the counter at room temperature, until they’ve reached your desired level of ripeness. A ripe peach has a little give when you gently squeeze it. But don’t squeeze too hard — peaches bruise easily.
2. Need it now
If you want to eat a peach immediately, you’re going to have to feel around the pit of peaches at the store until you find one that feels ripe enough to eat right now. Other than that, the fastest road to ripe peaches is through a little science and a paper bag. Place your peaches in a paper bag and close it for 24 hours. Thanks to the trapped ethylene gas, your peaches will be ready in as quickly as a day or two. To really speed things up, toss an apple or banana in the bag. These two fruits give off even more ethylene gas than peaches, so it speeds up the process even faster. Just keep a close eye on things so you don’t overdo it.
3. Take the slow road
If you have a bunch of peaches that are ripe or ripening within a day or two, you might want to pop them in the fridge to slow things down and give you a chance to eat them. The cold air slows down ripening quite a bit, but be aware that it doesn’t slow down the process altogether, and too long in the fridge can dry out this tender fruit.
Now you’ll never lose the summer peach battle again, and you’ll always have peaches ready for your most delicious cobblers, pies, smoothies, and salads.
Read next: The very best way to freeze peaches.