A peach is best picked when it separates easily from the tree. If it is difficult to pull from the branch, it is not ripe. Unlike other fruits, peaches do not continue to ripen once picked, so it is very important to wait until they are fully ripe before picking.
Other ways to detect a peach's ripeness is through color, softness and odor. Green peaches are unripe. Ripe peaches vary in color from yellow to orange to red, depending on the type of peach. Ripe peaches also "give" a little when pressed; this indicates a high moisture level and juicier fruit. The odor of the peach should be very sweet and pungent.
Because peaches are softer than other fruits, care should be taken not to bruise them while picking. Pull the fruit firmly off the branch in one direction. Once picked, the fruit should be gently placed in the basket, not dropped. Freshly picked peaches should be refrigerated immediately and used within a few days.
Peaches are used in a variety of foods, including pies, purees, jams, peach butter and peach cobbler. They are very low in fat, contain no cholesterol or sodium, and are good sources of vitamin A and fiber. A medium-sized raw peach contains about 40 calories.