Last weekend my friend April and I went to the farmer's market. Along with a lovely batch of fresh strawberries, we both decided to pick up some early peaches too. The only problem was that while the peaches looked great, they were still too hard and unripe. So what could we do? We could sit them on our counter and wait for what seems like an eternity for them to ripen, or we could employ a quick trick and have them ripen in double the time.
To speed up the ripening process in peaches, place them in a loosely sealed brown paper bag on the counter. The peaches give off ethylene gas - a natural ripening hormone - which is trapped inside the bag causing the fruit to ripen faster. You can do this with a plastic bag too, but the plastic doesn't "breathe" as well as the paper, meaning moisture may collect causing your perfectly ripened peaches to rot.
Once ripe, peaches should be refrigerated and used within a few days (although they'll taste better at room temp). Ripe peaches have a sweet fragrance, are soft (but not mushy) to the touch and have a golden undertone.
This ripening trick also works for apricots, nectarines, avocados, bananas, kiwi, mangoes, pears and plums.