From yellow peaches to white peaches and everything in between, we are covering the most popular peaches found in the USA.
This popular stone fruit is used in everything from salads to desserts. With over 300 varieties in the US and 2,000 worldwide, it can be hard to narrow down the list. We are going to focus on some of the most popular found here in the USA.
- Freestone Peaches
- Clingstone Peaches
- Semi-Freestone Peaches
- Which Category of Peach do I Want?
- Yellow Peaches Vs. White Peaches
- Arctic Supreme Peach
- Babcock Peach
- Cresthaven Peach
- Donut Peach
- Early Amber Peach
- Elberta Peach
- Florida King Peach
- Fortyniner Peach
- Frost peach
- Georgia Belle Peach
- Gold Dust Peach
- Halford Peach
- Red Haven Peach
- Redskin Peach
- Snow Peach
- Suncrest Peach
- White Nectarine
- White Peach
- Yellow Nectarine
Origin of Peaches
The peach botanically is called Prunus Persica which translates to Persian Plum, and for some time horticulturists believed that peaches originated in Persia, modern-day Iran. We know today, however, due to genetic research that peaches came from China. We aren’t talking about modern-day China, but thousands of years ago. There is evidence that peaches were cultivated over 8,000 years ago. They reached Persia via trade along the “Silk Road”, not really a road but an ancient trading route.
From Persia, we believe the armies of Alexander the Great brought peaches back to Europe after his conquering of most of what is now the Middle-East around 2300 years ago. By the 17th Century, peaches were grown in England and English settlers brought them to North America.
Today peaches are grown in many nations, but China is by far the largest producer. In 2022 the world’s leading producers were:
- China: 1.4 million tons
- Spain: 1.8 million tons
- Italy: 1.2 million tons
- Greece: 940,000 tons
- USA: 774,000 tons
Within the USA you would think that Georgia is the largest producer as they are the Peach Tree state, but that would be incorrect. Among the 20 states that grow peaches, California peaches dominate the market.
- California: 475,000 tons
- South Carolina: 68,000 tons
- Georgia: 25,000 tons
3 Kinds of Peaches
Freestone, clingstone, and semi-freestone peaches are three distinct kinds of peaches. Each is characterized by the ease with which the fruit’s flesh can be separated from the pit (stone).
Freestone peaches are known for their easy separation of the flesh from the pit. When fully ripe, the flesh of a freestone peach “freely” separates from the stone or pit inside. These peaches are typically larger and firmer than clingstone peaches, which combined with their easy separation from their pit, makes them a popular choice for fresh consumption. They are also good in baking where their firmness holds up well in cooking, and their easy-to-remove pits make them easy to cook with.
The many varieties of freestone peach make up a slightly larger share of the peaches grown in the USA than do the other two kinds. Additionally, they are typically harvested May – October (vs just midsummer for the clingstone), so they are often available fresh in supermarkets during the entire peach season, making them a preferred choice for consumers.
Clingstone peaches are the opposite of freestone in terms of the attachment of flesh to the pit. The flesh “clings” tightly to the stone, making it difficult to separate the two cleanly. Clingstone peaches tend to be sweeter, softer and have juicier flesh than freestone peaches. This makes them great for canning and preserving in jellies or jams.
Clingstone peaches are often characterized by their bright yellow flesh with flashes of red nearer the stone. They are only picked mid-season, so they are harder to find at the grocery. You might watch your local farmer’s market.
Semi-freestone peaches are a hybrid category that falls between freestone and clingstone. They have a moderate level of adhesion between the flesh and the pit. The ease of separation between the flesh and pit in semi-freestone peaches can vary depending on the specific variety and its ripeness. Some may lean more towards freestone characteristics, while others may be closer to clingstone. These peaches are versatile and can be used for both fresh consumption and commercial processing, depending on the individual peach’s characteristics.
Which Category of Peach do I Want?
The choice between freestone, clingstone, and semi-freestone peaches largely depends on your intended use. If you plan to eat the peaches fresh or use them in recipes where easy removal of the pit is important, freestone peaches are the preferred choice. For canning and preserves, clingstone or semi-freestone are often preferred for their sweetness and juiciness.
Yellow Peaches Vs. White Peaches
To add a bit of confusion peaches can be either yellow or white-fleshed. Either color can be freestone or clingstone. White peaches contain more sugar and tend to be sweeter, and a bit softer, and are generally eaten fresh more often than used in baking as they don’t hold up as well. Yellow peaches have less sugar, are a bit more acidic (though not heavily so), and are used in all manner of culinary creations.
19 Types of Peaches
Arctic Supreme Peach
These are larger clingstone peaches with white flesh and red skin. They are known for their exceptionally sweet and juicy flesh. They got their name as they are cold-hardy and can withstand lower temperatures, making them suitable for regions with cooler climates. They are relatively new to the peach scene, but their appealing flavor and ease of use have made them popular among peach enthusiasts.
Arctic Supreme peaches are excellent for eating fresh despite the clinging pit. They are a great choice for snacking, salads, or desserts like fruit tarts. They can also be used in jams and preserves due to their juicy nature, but you do have to work a bit to remove the pit.
Babcock are small to medium-sized semi-freestone peaches with white flesh. They tend to be a bit tart, but their sweet-tart flavor makes them a great baking peach in recipes that call for additional sweeteners. This is a hybrid peach developed by horticulturist Ralph D. Babcock who appears to have achieved the exact peach he wanted. Many white peaches are too soft to hold up in baking.
This is a larger freestone peach known for relatively firm flesh that offers a sweet and slightly tangy flavor with hints of citrus. Crest Haven peaches are excellent for both fresh consumption and cooking. They can be sliced and added to salads, used in pies or cobblers, or eaten fresh.
Crest Haven peaches are a popular variety among commercial growers and home gardeners due to their dependable production and good flavor. They are often used as a benchmark for quality.
Donut Peaches, also known as Saturn peaches, can be either clingstone or freestone. These peaches are known for their unique flat, round shape, and are typically softer and juicier compared to many other peaches. They have a sweet, mild, and slightly tangy flavor with a creamy, melting texture. Donut peaches are originally from China and were introduced to the United States in the late 19th century.
Donut peaches are often eaten fresh, and their shape makes them perfect for slicing and adding to fruit salads. They can also be used in baking, grilling, or as a topping for desserts like ice cream.
Early Amber Peach
Early amber peaches are freestone peaches that have orange-yellow flesh known for a relatively firm and slightly crunchy texture. Like many freestone peaches, they are moderately juicy and have a sweet, rich, and often complex flavor with hints of tartness. They are picked early in the season, thus their name.
These peaches are great for both eating fresh and in the kitchen. They can be sliced and added to salads, used in pies, cobblers, jams, or even grilled for a smoky, caramelized flavor.
Another popular freestone peach variety is known for its large size, sweet, firm, juicy flesh, and golden yellow skin. They are commonly grown in Georgia, where they were first cultivated in the 1870s, and are part of the reason the state is known for its quality peaches. They were named after the daughter of Samuel Rumph who developed the variety. They can be eaten fresh, sliced in salads, made into preserves, or used in baking pies and cobblers. They also make excellent canned peaches.
Florida King Peach
The Florida king peach is a freestone variety known for its firm texture, which is beneficial for transportation and storage. They have a pleasant balance of sweetness and a mild tartness, resulting in a delicious flavor. The fruit is typically juicy and aromatic. They are often eaten fresh, sliced into salads, or used for making desserts like pies, tarts, and cobblers.
The Florida King, was not surprisingly, developed in Florida. It is known for its adaptability to the warm and humid climate of the region, making it a popular choice among growers in the southeastern United States.
Fortyniner peaches are a large freestone peach known for their firm, smooth, and juicy flesh. They have a sweet and mildly tangy flavor, often described as having a good balance of sugar and acidity. These peaches are excellent for fresh eating, and their firmness makes them suitable for grilling or using in fruit salads.
The Fortyniner peach is believed to have originated in California. It’s known for producing large, round, and flavorful fruits. The name “Fortyniner” likely alludes to the California Gold Rush of 1849 in which the mass of aspiring miners were known as fortyniners.
These freestone peaches are known for their firm texture, making them great for slicing and adding to salads. They are juicy and have a sweet, slightly tart flavor. The flesh is often white or yellow, depending on the specific cultivar.
The Frost peach was developed in California and has become popular with both home gardeners and commercial growers. While these peaches are relatively cold-hardy, they can still be vulnerable to frost damage in extreme cold conditions despite their name.
Georgia Belle Peach
The Georgia Belle is a freestone peach known for its delectable flavor and relatively firm texture. They are large, white-fleshed, moderately juicy, and sweet with a subtle tartness, providing a well-balanced taste. The firmness of Georgia Belle peaches makes them suitable for grilling, baking, and all manner of cooking. They can be used in pies, cobblers, and as a topping for desserts like ice cream. The sweet and slightly tart flavor makes them a delightful addition to salads, salsas, and fruit salads.
As the name suggests, this peach comes from Georgia where it was first discovered growing as a natural hybrid, but has now been cultivated for a long time. The Georgia belle tree produces great peaches, but is also popular as an ornamental tree due to its beautiful pink blossoms in the spring.
Gold Dust Peach
These are small semi-freestone peaches with a sweet and mildly tangy flavor with a hint of tropical fruit notes. Gold dust peaches are, as their classification suggests, good at almost everything you want from a peach. They are excellent for eating fresh, slicing into salads, or using in baked desserts as their firm texture holds up well in cooking.
The Gold Dust peach is a relatively new cultivar that was developed in California in the 1940s. It’s named for the speckled appearance of its skin, which resembles gold dust. This variety is known for its attractive appearance and delightful taste.
The Halford peach is a clingstone variety known for its yellow skin, large size, and soft texture. It is an unusual peach as it was developed in Canada by horticulturist Joseph Halford in the early 20th century. This peach variety was developed to have good shipping qualities and extended shelf life, making it a valuable commercial cultivar. It is commercially grown primarily for canning.
Red Haven Peach
The Red Haven peach is a firm freestone fruit known for its succulent flesh, and a flavor balanced between sweetness and tartness. The firm texture of Red Haven peaches makes them suitable for slicing, and they hold their shape well when cooked. They are often used for canning, baking, grilling, and making preserves. They are juicy for freestone peaches making them perfect for fresh eating, as they provide a burst of juice with each bite.
Red Haven peaches originated in Michigan, USA, in the 1940s. They were among the first cultivars to gain widespread commercial success, setting a standard for peach quality and helping establish the peach industry in Michigan. Go Blue! Sorry, I had to add that as my Michigan-born father may read this.
The Redskin peach is a freestone peach known for its moderately firm texture. They are juicy and offer a rich, sweet flavor with a hint of tartness. The firmness of redskin peaches makes them suitable for grilling, baking, and canning. Their juicy nature is great for fresh consumption, and they are often used in fruit salads and desserts. The vivid red skin of these peaches adds a pop of color to dishes.
Snow peaches are freestone peaches with white flesh often said to have one of the best flavors among peach varieties. They have a mild and delicate flavor, often described as floral or honey-like. The flesh is not as firm as some other freestone varieties but firm enough to hold up in baking. They are often used in making peach-based beverages and as a unique addition to salsas and chutneys.
Despite their name, they do not grow in northern climates, but mostly in Florida. The name may have come from the fact that it is an early ripening peach normally peaking in mid-May, or perhaps just due to the color of their flesh.
Suncrest is a freestone peach known for its firmness, juiciness, and delightful flavor. The flesh is moderately firm, making it suitable for both eating fresh and cooking. These peaches are juicy for freestones, and their flavor is a blend of sweet and tangy notes, often described as having a classic peach taste.
Suncrest peaches originated in California, and are widely grown in the Golden State. They were developed in the mid-20th century and have since become a highly cultivated variety typically available in late spring and early summer.
Nectarines are a genetic mutation of peaches that do not have fuzz and are characterized by their smooth, pale yellow to white skin and sweet, aromatic flesh. Like yellow nectarines, they are freestone fruits. White nectarines are known for their firm, yet tender, texture. They are not as juicy as traditional nectarines but compensate with a sweet, floral, and slightly tropical flavor. They lack the typical tanginess associated with peaches and have a more delicate, sugary taste.
White nectarines are most commonly eaten out of hand, in fruit salads, or cut into yogurt or oatmeal. They can also be used in baking, especially in tarts, pies, or galettes, where their sweet and fragrant flavor adds a unique twist to classic recipes.
White nectarines, like their yellow counterparts, originated in ancient China. They made their way to Europe and were later introduced to the United States.
White peaches are another variety that falls into the semi-freestone category. They are known for their pale, almost creamy skin and flesh. White peaches are popular due to their sweet, mild flavor and lack of tartness, making them distinct from traditional yellow peaches. White peaches are often characterized by their soft, juicy, and melting flesh. Their flavor is exceptionally sweet, often reminiscent of honey or floral notes. These peaches are delicate and can bruise easily, but their flavor is wonderfully sweet.
White peaches are best enjoyed fresh, as their unique flavor shines when eaten out of hand. They are also wonderful in fruit salads, and smoothies, or used to make sorbets and ice creams. Due to their softer texture, they are less commonly used in baking compared to their firmer, yellow counterparts. We think the exception to this is in grilled and caramelized peaches. The high sugar content in white peaches is perfect for these. Try our grilled peach caprese.
White peaches have a history that can be traced back to China, where they have been cultivated for centuries. They were introduced to the United States in the 19th century and have since become a popular choice for those seeking a sweeter, milder peach.
Yellow nectarines are freestone fruits known for their smooth and slightly fuzzy skin. The flesh of a yellow nectarine is firm but not overly so, and it offers a perfect balance of sweetness and tartness. They are prized for their juicy and succulent texture, making them a delightful choice for those who enjoy a refreshing and thirst-quenching fruit. The flavor of a yellow nectarine is typically sweet and often described as having a honeyed or tropical undertone with a pleasing acidity.
How to Pick (Choose) Peaches
Give each peach a gentle squeeze. If it is very firm it still needs a few days to ripen. If it is just a tad soft and you could make an indentation with your fingers with more pressure, it is ripe & juicy and ready to eat right now. Avoid peaches with green areas as that is an indication that it was picked too early. Also, avoid those with bruises or mushy spots as those are overripe. You can also give a peach a sniff test. Ripe peaches will have a peachy aroma. Those not quite ripe yet will have no smell.
Which Variety of Peaches Do I Want?
This is a bit tricky. Most groceries typically only carry 1-3 varieties at a time. If they have two, it is generally because they carry a peak-season yellow peach and a flat donut peach. Some groceries may even have a third selling a white peach as well. The exact type may rotate a bit from month to month as peaches reach and pass their peak season. So, you may have to go to a larger market or farmer’s market to get choices. If you have choices, our recommendations are:
The Sweetest Peaches: Look for donuts, Elberta, or white peaches.
Best Peach for Baking: Stick with any of the freestone peaches. Red Haven or Cresthaven are ca n’t-miss options.
Best Peaches for Pie: Definitely stick with a firm freestone variety. You want the peach slices in your pie to remain intact when you pick them up with a fork.
Best Peach for Jams, Jellies, and Preserves: Go with any of the clingstone varieties. Their softer juicy flesh is perfect for this.
This wraps up our look at different types of peaches. We hope you found some things you can use in this article, and as always happy cooking from your friends at the test kitchen of Live Eat Learn!