The great peach has served as many different roles throughout history, including poison in the movie Parasite, a sexual awakening symbol in Renaissance art and contemporary media, a filthy emoji, and a means of transportation for a fictional boy and his friends to travel to far-off places. However, it has never been simple to pit.
If a peach is intended for a pie, a cobbler, or any other dessert that requires the fruit to be coaxed apart, the riper it is, the juicier its flesh will be, and consequently, the slipperier the shell with its firm, almond-shaped center will be. The process of removing the pit is the peach’s dark side; otherwise, this fruit is a symbol of all things cheery and vibrant.
That may be the reason why when home cook Lori Woosley Uden shared a 15-second TikTok video of a painless approach to the painful pit in the middle of June, her method amassed more than 100,000 likes in just a few weeks, inspiring even Padma Lakshmi to copy it. (Show more than 46,000 likes.)
The method operates as follows: Take a ripe peach and a pair of needle-nose pliers. Pry the pointed ends of the pliers into the shoulders of the peach, on either side of its stem, until they are roughly the width of a pit. Pull the pit from the peach by gently rotating the fruit while you squeeze the pliers shut around the pit, reorienting them as necessary to get traction.
Woosley Uden wrote to me, “I just sort of came up with it last month because I hate pitting peaches. Of course, it’s possible that others have been using pliers like this for a long time prior to her video. For example, a comment from @hypno granny that reads, “I bought pliers expressly for the kitchen because I use them so regularly,” has amassed close to 1,000 likes.
The needle-nose plier method works with freestone peaches as well if you can’t be bothered to cut them in half, but it is most useful when working with clingstone peaches. Jules Janic and Robert E. Paull’s The Encyclopedia of Fruit and Nuts describes the distinction between the two forms as follows: “The flesh attaches more or less strongly to the hard pit or stone, hence the terms freestone or clingstone.” Clingstone peaches often enter season earlier than freestone peaches, between mid-May and early June, and are smaller and more juicy. For instance, the frequently Instagrammed doughnut peach is a clingstone. Mid-June marks the start of the freestone peach season, and the fruit often remains available until mid-August.
Ripe nectarines, which are actually a variety of peach with smooth rather than fuzzy skin due to a genetic variation, respond nicely to the plier technique as well. They may also feature pits for freestone or clingstone. Woosley Uden claims that she also uses pliers to pit cherries. The only situation I examined that did not lead to simple pit removal was an unripe peach, which resembled fruit assassination as a firm yellow peach was repeatedly stabbed in an attempt to remove the pit.
Old standbys like the wedge-and-twist method, in which one chops a peach into half or quarters before twisting the flesh from the pit, are ineffective for people without needle-nose pliers. But for the chance to see the great peach in its most stunning role yet, it could be worth spending the $11 that a pair of needle-nose pliers will set you back.
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