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A perfectly ripe peach combines sweetness with a texture that's soft without being pulpy -- but these peaches require a little care to find. If you know the signs of ripeness, you'll be less likely to bite into an under- or overripe peach.

Looking for the Right Color

As peaches ripen, they change color. The characteristic pink or red blush of a peach isn't a sign of ripeness, though; the real indicator is the background or "ground" color. Look for peaches with a yellow ground color. If the ground color is still greenish, the peach isn't completely ripe yet.

Another way to spot ripeness is to give the peach a sniff. The stronger the fruit's aroma, the riper the peach.

Judging by Texture

Softness is another sign of ripeness. Pick up the peach, holding it with the pads of your fingers, and give it a very gentle squeeze. If the fruit is firm, it isn't ripe yet. If it feels soft, giving under the pressure, it's ripe. If your fingertips press very easily into the flesh, it may be overripe. Don't throw it out, though; you can still use overripe peaches for jams or other recipes even if you might not want to bite into one.

Speeding the Ripening Process

If you have some underripe peaches, you can help them ripen quickly by storing them correctly. Leave the fruit on a counter at room temperature; if you have the space, arrange them so they're not touching each other. Once the peaches are ripe, you can eat them right away or refrigerate them; don't refrigerate them before they are ripe, however, or they'll stay firm.