By: Amy Grant
Peaches are members of the rose family amongst which they can count apricots, almonds, cherries, and plums as cousins. What are the different peach stone types?
Peaches are categorized based on the relationship between the pit and the peach flesh. In other words, how well the flesh attaches to the pit. So, we have clingstone peaches, freestone peaches, and even semi-freestone peaches. All three can be found as white or yellow peaches. So, what is the difference between clingstone and freestone? And, what are semi-freestone peaches?
The difference between clingstone and freestone peaches is very simple. You will definitely know if you are cutting into a clingstone peach. The pit (endocarp) will cling stubbornly to the flesh (mesocarp) of the peach. Conversely, freestone peach pits are easy to remove. In fact, when a freestone peach is cut in half, the pit will fall freely from the fruit as you upend the half. Not so with clingstone peaches; you basically have to pry the pit out from the flesh, or cut or nibble around it.
Clingstone peaches are the first variety to be harvested in May through August. The flesh is yellow with splashes of red as it gets closer to the pit or stone. Clingstones are sweet, juicy, and soft — perfect for desserts and preferred for canning and preserves. This type of peach is often found canned in syrup in the supermarket rather than fresh.
Freestone peaches are most often eaten fresh, simply because the pit is easily removed. This variety of peach is ripe around late May through October. You are more likely to find these available fresh at your local market rather than clingstone varieties. They are a little bit larger than clingstones, firmer as well, but less sweet and juicy. Still, they are delicious for canning and baking purposes.
The third type of peach stone fruit is called semi-freestone. Semi-freestone peaches are a newer, hybridized variety of peach, a combination between clingstone and freestone peaches. By the time the fruit has ripened, it has become primarily freestone, and the pit should be fairly easy to remove. It is a good general purpose peach, adequate for both eating fresh as well as canning or baking with.
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Read more about Peach Trees
The history of the peach prior to its introduction to the Americas is well documented. The peach migrated from China to Persia (Iran) and from there to Greece, then to Italy, France, and Spain. The Spanish explorers brought it to Mexico in 1571 and later to South America. About 1600 it was introduced in North America and appeared in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. It was cultivated in New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland in the 1600’s.
Peach growing began in New Jersey in the early 1600’s when colonists began importing European varieties. It was learned by the early settlers that fruit thrived better in the coastal areas of the continent than in Europe. The first area of concentration is believed to have been Cumberland County and the center of production changed many times during the early years. The first peaches were seedlings with white and yellow flesh, and the best of the seedlings became varieties. New Jersey was well suited to the growing of peaches and an atlas published in Scotland in 1684 called New Jersey “The Garden of the World”. Perhaps this is the origin of New Jersey’s nick name “The Garden State.” By 1680, peaches were grown in abundance with extensive orchards from Trenton to New Brunswick. The area of production spread north to Morris County and around Hackettstown.
The peach was the first fruit to receive attention commercially and it is reported in 1683 that peaches were available in New York by the wagonloads from New Jersey orchards. By the mid 1800’s the fruit industry was receiving considerable attention and the entire state was known for its abundance and quality of peaches. Production reached sufficient quantities to enable shipment of over 500,000 bushels to New York markets by 1865. At this time many peaches were being selected and named by New Jersey growers. Some of importance were EARLY and LATE CRAWFORD, REEVES, SMOCK, KEYPORT WHITE, STUMP, MOUNTAIN ROSE, AND IRON MOUNTAIN.
Toward the end of the 1800’s Hunterdon County became the center of peach production, shipping as many as 750,000 bushels in a single season. There were 90 varieties grown but only 20 were with a range from 6-10 years. The short life of peach trees back then was a serious a concern as it still is today.
The peach industry in New Jersey reached its peak during the latter part of the 19th century as measured by trees planted. In 1890, there we re more than 4 million trees in the state, and half of these were in Hunterdon County. In 1886 San Jose Scale, which was imported into California from the orient, gained its first foothold in the East at a nursery near Riverton, New Jersey. It arrived on plum trees from a nursery in California. Before a control measure had been discovered, San Jose Scale had spread throughout the state killing thousands of acres of peach trees.
Jerome L Frecon,
Agricultural Agent, Rutgers NJAES, Cooperative Extension
Professor Emeritus, Rutgers NJAES, Cooperative Extension
The two basic types of peaches are clingstone and freestone. With clingstone peaches, the flesh “clings” to the “stone” of the peach, making it difficult to separate, and thus more suitable for processing. In addition, this variety retains its flavor and soft texture during processing. According to NASS (2010), roughly 80 percent of processed peaches are canned and 16 percent are frozen. Processed peaches may also be dried, prepared as baby food and concentrated for fruit juice.
The pit of freestone peaches “freely” separates from the flesh, making it ideal for fresh consumption. Freestone peaches grown in New Jersey are generally larger than clingstones with a firmer, juicy texture. While most commonly eaten fresh, these peaches may also be frozen and dried. The peach breeding program began at the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station in 1907 under the direction of Dr. C.H. Connors. In 1914, the first commercial variety released was named LIBERTY. Peach breeding began on an extensive scale at Vineland, New Jersey in 1914. Professor M.A. Blake assumed leadership of the breeding program around 1921 and in 1925, nine new varieties were released. An outstanding yellow-fleshed seedling was named GOLDEN JUBILEE in 1926. Professor A.J. Farley was the Extension Pomologist in those early years and a variety was named TRIOGEM for the trio of Connors, Blake, and Farley in the 1940’s. Professor M.A.Blake was is considered the father of the peach industry of New Jersey. He died in 1948 and in 1953, the BLAKE peach was named in his honor.
Many peach varieties have been developed at the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment in the past 105 years. The most important today are described elsewhere in this publication. In 1982 a comprehensive peach variety research and evaluation program was established by Rutgers NJAES Cooperative Extension, Gloucester County. Many peach varieties form all over the world have been tested and evaluated in this program and are now planted by New Jersey growers.
Peach production continues to be a challenge in New Jersey with a wide variety of pests, high production and labor costs, irregular weather patterns and vigorous competition from other peach producing areas. In spite of these obstacles New Jersey remains a great place to grow and provide consumers with high quality, flavorful peaches.
Nectarines are simply peaches without the fuzzy skin. They are generally smaller than peaches and the skin has a stronger aroma. Nectarines have either yellow or red flesh and are used in cooking and fresh eating in the same manner as peaches. They are available in freestone and clingstone varieties.
Whenever peaches contain flesh that sticks to the pit of the fruit, they are called Clingstone peaches. These peaches can have yellow or white flesh and they are usually very sweet and juicy. If you choose this type of peach, it is recommended that you cut the pit away from the fruit with a knife instead of eating around the pit.
Nowadays, most Clingstone peaches are used for processing instead of making desserts, in part because of the requirement of separating the flesh from the pit before eating.
These varieties include the Santa Rosa peaches, which are best when eaten from May to August and have yellow flesh and a sweet and acidic flavor. They are mostly used for preserving and canning purposes, although they are occasionally used for baking and in salads, and they have a crisp, firm bite.
Another variety is the Red Beauty peach, which is tender and has a skin that is almost red in color. The Red Beauty has flesh that is reddish-yellow in color and is also in season from May to August.
Doughnut peaches are an heirloom peach and have white flesh and a fairly flat shape. They are found mostly in July and August in either specialty produce stores or local farmers’ markets. They are low in acid, making them very tasty.
Freestone peaches are less sweet and juicy than the Clingstone type of peaches but they are the most commonly found peaches in the supermarkets and in various desserts. They get their name because they have flesh that is easily separated from the pit. Their flesh can be either yellow or white, depending on the variety.
There are several different varieties that fall under this category. One of the most popular is the O’Henry peach, which matures in late summer and has thin red skin and firm yellow flesh. The only thing more appealing than their aroma is their perfect balance of sweetness and tartness. You can use O’Henry peaches for mixing drinks, eating raw, and making preserves and sorbets.
A variety known as the Red Top peach, which is also a late-summer variety, comes with great-smelling leaves and attractive pink flowers, not to mention a sweet and tart flavor. Last, Elegant Lady peaches are firm, mildly acidic, and very fragrant. They are mostly used for snacking, canning, and baking purposes.
These peaches have flesh that falls apart and softens easily, especially over time. If you try and cut them with a knife, they will become raggedy and torn. Melting flesh peaches include both the Clingstone and Freestone varieties and they are perfect to include in cobblers, pies, and other yummy desserts. You can also eat them raw for a nice, fresh taste.
Nectarines are a type of peach if you look at them from a botanical viewpoint. Their flavor varies a bit, depending on the variety in reality, the main difference between peaches and nectarines is that nectarines have smooth, fuzz-free skin and usually a darker color than most peaches.
Unlike melting flesh peaches, these peaches’ flesh stays nice and firm for a very long time, which is one of the reasons why they are used for processed foods and for canning purposes. Clingstone peaches make up this category and they are only occasionally used in desserts or eaten raw.
Peento peaches are a type of Chinese peach but they are now also grown in the United States in the states of Washington and California. They come in a wide variety of colors and flesh types. Instead of a spherical shape that resembles other types of peaches, Peento peaches are either flat or shaped similarly to doughnuts.
These peaches are a mix between the Freestone and Clingstone types of peaches and they boast two main advantages: they are extremely sweet and juicy and their flesh does not cling to the pit. They are a very tasty type of peach that is definitely worth trying.
As the name suggests, these peaches are a light yellow to white color in flesh and are a little less acidic than the Yellow Flesh peaches. The center that surrounds the pit is usually either pink or red and they are sweet but not very tart. Their peak season is May through August and they are grown mostly in Asia.
With a taste that combines an acidic and sweet characteristic, these peaches are usually dark red in the center and have flesh that is either orange or yellow. They have a smooth but slightly tangy flavor and they are best when purchased from May through September. There are a lot of different varieties of the Yellow Flesh peaches and they are mostly grown in Europe and North America.
Flaming Fury (Clingstone) ripens early to mid-July. Mostly red skin, non-browning with a mild flavor. It is juicy and sweet with minimal split pits.
Desiree (Semi-Freestone) ripens mid-July. This well-flavored peach is medium-sized and is colored crimson red over yellow-red with firm yellow flesh.
Harrow Diamond (Freestone) ripens late July. Yellow skinned peach covered with a red blush. Its yellow flesh is non-browning, juicy, and sweet good for eating fresh, canning, or freezing.
Early Star (Semi-Freestone) ripens late July. The fruit is medium in size with good color and firmness.
GlenGlo (Semi-Freestone) The fruit is large, very firm, and freestone when tree-ripened.
Eight Ball (Freestone) The fruit is highly colored, almost completely red and good size
Bright Star (Semi-Freestone) ripens late July. It is a good early eating peach, with great flavors, good color, and firmness. It has very few split pits.
Sentry (Semi-Freestone) ripens mid-July. This big flavored large peach is firm and attractive with sweet yellow flesh.
Red Haven (Freestone) ripens late July. This red over yellow fruit is a popular peach with a long shelf life. This is a great peach for all your canning recipes.
The following conversion list will give you an idea of how many peaches you will need for recipes if you decide to freeze or cook with your peaches.
One pound of peaches will equal
2 medium to large peaches will equal
2 to 2.5 lbs. peaches will equal
1 bushel of peaches will equal
Looking for more ideas on what to do with your fresh picked Peaches? Click here to find some fantastic peach recipes.
We look forward to having you visit our peach orchard soon!