6 December 2023

Here’s everything you need to know about the shelf life and storage of peaches. Learn how long peaches last, how to tell if they’re ripe, and how to tell when a peach has gone bad.

Have you bought a bag of peaches and wonder how long peaches keep?

Or maybe yours have been in the fridge for a couple of days now, and before you eat them, you need to know what signs of spoilage to look for.

Does it look familiar? If so, this article is for you.

But before you get to shelf life and spoilage, you first have to know how to tell if a peach is ripe. So let’s start with that.

peach in hand

When are peaches ripe?

A ripe peach gives slightly when pressed gently: it’s not completely firm, but it’s not soft enough to leave a bruise if you’re not extra careful.

Firm peaches are not ripe, and still need some time until they are soft and juicy, while soft peaches are overripe, and it is better to use them as soon as possible.

Firmness is the best way to check if a peach is ripe or not. You can also look for a sweet scent and a golden yellow (rather than light yellow) color near the stem, but these aren’t as consistent. Also, it’s not always clear if the fragrance is strong or sweet enough, or if that tinge near the stem is still light yellow or not.

Knowing this, let’s talk about shelf life.

Peaches in ventilated bag

How long do peaches last?

Counter Fridge
Peaches, immature 1 – 3 days, until ripe
Peaches, ripe 12 days 5 – 7 days
Peaches, sliced up to 4 days

Immature peaches need 1-3 days to ripen. Once ripe, they keep for up to a week if you refrigerate them and only 1-2 days if you leave them at room temperature.

If you need more time, you can always freeze the peaches or make peach jam.

The exact time that a peach retains its quality depends on its degree of maturity.

A freshly ripe peach or one that you have ripened yourself should last 5-7 days without getting too soft. But if you bought it fairly soft or left it out at room temperature after ripening, you’ll only have a couple of days.

Knowing this allows you to easily choose peaches at the grocery store based on what you need at the time:

  • Buy the ones that are firm if you don’t mind waiting at least a day or two until they are ripe and of the highest quality.
  • Choose the ones that give under gentle pressure if you need some for the next few days.
  • Grab soft peaches on sale if you know you’ll be eating them in a day or so, or if you plan to cook or bake with fresh peaches overnight.

Next, let’s talk about the signs of deterioration.

Peach slices in an airtight container

How to know if a peach is bad?

Discard the peaches that

  • Are moldy or rotten. Injured peaches grow moldy, and those that sit too long at room temperature tend to rot. If the affected area is small, you can probably cut it off, but if it isn’t, discard the whole fruit.
  • Are soft, mushy, or leaky. If the fruit gets to the point where just picking it makes an indentation or is grossly super soft, it’s finished.
  • Smells like humidity. If the whole bunch is giving off a musty or “funny” odor, and it’s not obvious which one is bad, err on the side of caution and throw it all away.
  • They are brown inside. Stone fruits are known to undergo internal decay that (at first) leaves no mark on the skin. So if you open the peach and most of the flesh is brown or translucent, throw it away. You can probably cut some minor changes and eat the rest if you want.

If you notice anything else on the peaches that seems strange, trust that impulse and get rid of them. Better safe than sorry.

peach hole in the skin

Now, it’s not always clear whether or not a supersoft peach is still good enough to eat. It is a decision that you must make.

In my case, I always take them by hand and give them a super gentle squeeze. If it gives in so much that I find it disgusting, it ends up in the trash. But if it’s soft but doesn’t gross me out, I use it.

What if the peach is too soft for a fruit salad or to eat as a snack, but you don’t think it’s bad enough to throw it away?

Use it in a cooked recipe.

I’ve already mentioned peach jam, and there are hundreds of other recipes that you can use peaches in, especially if you like baked goods. Just Google what you want to make and add the word “peach” to the end of the query, and you’ll find dozens of recipes to choose from.

peach flesh discoloration

How to preserve peaches?

Store immature peaches at room temperature on the counter until ripe. Once ripe, you can leave them out on the same counter for 1-2 days or refrigerate them in a plastic bag or crisper for up to a week.

There are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Wash them before eating and do not use detergents. Running water is enough. And if you have to wash the peaches before storing them, dry them well.
  • Refrigerate only when ripe. If you don’t let your peaches ripen, they won’t be as juicy and sweet as they’re supposed to be. Instead they will be sour and crunchy.
  • Don’t stack them. Ripe peaches bruise easily, so stockpiling them in the warehouse is never a good idea. That’s why you also have to be gentle when checking to see if they’re ripe: nobody likes a bruised peach that goes bad quickly.
  • Leave it at room temperature for about an hour before consuming it so that it has the best flavor.

The same ideas apply when storing nectarines and apricots.

Now we are going to deal with the ripening of underripe peaches.

Peach in shell container

How to ripen peaches?

Peaches ripen on the counter at room temperature. Put them in a place away from sunlight, place them in a single layer, without touching each other, and make sure they are well ventilated.

To speed up the process, you can ripen the peaches in a folded brown bag that traps the ethylene gas responsible for ripening, but allows the fruit to breathe.

For even faster ripening, you can place another ethylene-producing fruit or vegetable inside that bag, such as an apple or banana.

Place the peach in the brown bag

Peaches are climacteric, which means they can continue to ripen from the tree. So, as long as the fruit isn’t picked green and super firm, it should ripen just fine given enough time.

Peaches typically take 1-3 days to ripen, but if yours are still firm after three days, give them another day or two. And make sure all the fruit is slightly soft; a single tender point is not enough.

The ripening of peaches is mainly due to ethylene gas. The more gas (which is also a hormone) there is, roughly speaking, the sooner the peaches will be ripe.

Knowing this, the methods to speed up the process that I have suggested above make a lot of sense.

Placing the fruits in a brown bag helps trap the ethylene that the peaches produce. And adding another ethylene-producing fruit or vegetable helps further increase the concentration of the gas.

Something you should avoid is using plastic bags for ripening. The problem with them is that, in addition to trapping the ethylene, they also trap all the moisture. And as you know, excess moisture at room temperature often means premature deterioration.

The brown bags allow the peaches to breathe and moisture to evaporate.

quartered peaches

Do peaches need to be refrigerated?

Ripe peaches do not need refrigeration, but refrigeration is highly recommended because it extends their shelf life by a couple of days. Peaches will keep for only 1-2 days if left on the counter, but up to a week if refrigerated.

In other words, it all depends on how long you need to store them.

If you are going to eat them the same day (or the next), they can be at room temperature. You just have to make sure that they are in a cool, dry and dark place, and well ventilated.

(And away from ripening ethylene-producing fruits and vegetables, of course.)

To refrigerate the peaches, seal them in a plastic bag and put them on a shelf in the fridge, or place them in the food drawer. In the latter case, you can omit the bag.

Both options work well because they help the peaches retain their moisture so they don’t soften prematurely.

Summary of Shelf Life and Spoilage of Peaches

Thanks for reading this short guide on peaches. Let’s briefly recap the main points we’ve covered above:

  • When is a peach ripe? Ripe peaches give slightly under light pressure. If they’re firm and don’t give in at all, they’re underripe and need more time. And if they’re soft and bruise easily, they’re overripe and won’t last long.
  • How long do peaches last? Immature peaches need 1-3 days to ripen. Once ripe, they keep for 1-2 days at room temperature or up to a week in the fridge.
  • How to know if a peach is bad? Throw away peaches that are moldy, rotten, mushy, leaking water, or brown on the inside. If the cluster smells “funny” but you can’t pinpoint why, they should be removed as well.

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