Sweet Lessons From A South Carolina Peach Professor

Is It Ripe? "To pick a perfect peach, obviously you need to pick it off the tree yourself," says Clemson University peach specialist Desmond Layne. But for those of us who pick peaches in supermarkets and not in orchards, he has three simple suggestions: Smell it. Squeeze it. Look at where it's from.

Is It Ripe? "To pick a perfect peach, obviously you need to pick it off the tree yourself," says Clemson University peach specialist Desmond Layne. But for those of us who pick peaches in supermarkets and not in orchards, he has three simple suggestions: Smell it. Squeeze it. Look at where it's from. iStockphoto.com hide caption

itoggle caption iStockphoto.com

Desmond Layne may just have the best job in America. He's a peach specialist at Clemson University in South Carolina — and a fruit video star. Layne posts weekly videos from out in the orchard, where he samples his peach pick of the week.

In a recent video, he bites into a peach of the Winblo variety, and then collapses to the ground in ecstasy: "This is paradise!" he exclaims. "Sweet, juicy, it melts in your mouth. Winblo is like the perfect peach: Creamy texture, awesome peach smell — what more could you ask for?"

Layne has tasted countless varieties of the fruit, but says Winblo is The One. It's "a peach that will just sorta knock your socks off," he tells NPR's Melissa Block.

You'd think that Layne might run out of ways to describe peaches to his online viewers, but he finds ways to get his point across: "Drips off your elbows, drips off your chin, drips off your face, drips onto your shirt, onto your pants, onto your shoes ... We just want the consumer to know out there, that this is an awesome fruit and it's a great time of year."

Unlike apples and pears, peaches in chain supermarkets aren't labeled by variety — they're simply identified as "white peaches" or "yellow peaches." That's because different varieties of peaches hit their two-week ripeness window throughout the summer, Layne explains. "We don't typically store them for long periods of time like we do other fruits."

A peach can be deceiving; it will look and smell ripe, but when you bite into it, it can be hard or tasteless or mealy. If you're picking your peaches in a supermarket rather than an orchard, Layne offers some tips: "Put it up to your nose and smell it; it should have a good peach smell," he says. And give it a gentle squeeze, too — the fruit should give a little under the pressure of your fingertips. And don't forget to look at the label to see where the peach was grown.

"Consider where the fruit came from," Layne says. "If it came from 3,000 miles away, then bear in mind that it was probably picked at a much more immature stage, and it's not going to be as ripe and delicious. If it came from a neighboring state, it's probably a whole lot riper."

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