I want to know how to buy good peaches. The peaches I buy are always very hard. I keep them at room temperature and wait for them to ripen. Instead of ripening, they turn woody, tasteless, and brown around the pit, and they don't ever seem to soften in the way I expect. Am I buying poor quality peaches? Am I caring for them wrong? Help! I really love peaches and am usually disappointed in what I get! D.

As you may guess, there is a wide range of peaches, and qualities in the marketplace. There are many places in the trip from the orchard to the consumer for things to go awry. Most commonly, the peaches were stored at the wrong temperature during storage and shipment.

Assuming you get the peach in decent shape, putting the peach in a paper bag at room temperature should help the peach to soften. Once the peach has softened to the point that it gives to a slight finger pressure--store it in a refrigerator. If the peach was already predisposed to mealiness you have not done anything wrong...the store or its supplier did not do a good job handling the peach.

This is why buying closer to the grower makes a great deal of difference in the quality of peaches you buy. Michigan peaches tend to be sold more locally and tend to be better eating experiences. Late season (after early September) peaches tend to be from Washington State or California. My bias is that you should ask for Michigan peaches in season.