Life is peachy
Because August is National Peach Month, let’s learn some of the fruit’s sweet history…
The peach originated in China and has been cultivated at least since 1000 B.C.E. In China, the peach tree is regarded as the tree of life and its fruit symbolizes immortality and unity. Chinese brides even carry peach blossoms down the aisle.
To this day China remains the largest world producer of peaches, with Italy in second place. California, Georgia and South Carolina are the prime growing locations in the US.
There are many reasons to love and enjoy peaches. They are a good source of vitamins A, B and C. They’re virtually fat free (less than 1 gram of fat), naturally sodium free, and have no cholesterol! A medium peach contains only 37 calories.
Handle with care
You can buy two main varieties of peaches: clingstone (the flesh clings to the stone) and free stone (the stone is easily separated from the flesh). Freestone peaches are easier to eat and make up the majority of varieties found in grocery stores.
Check for ripeness by lightly squeezing the peach (use your whole hand vs. fingertips to check since the fruit bruises easily) and the flesh should have a slight give. Also check for an even coloring of golden or creamy yellow, and a “peachy-sweet” fragrance.
Peaches spoil easily so don’t buy more than you will use (unless you plan on freezing them)! Even under ideal conditions, peaches will only keep for a week in a refrigerator, so for best flavor and texture, use them as soon as possible after purchase.
It will be easier to peel the peaches if you blanch them for a minute in boiling water then plunge them in cold water for a minute to stop the effect of the heat. Peaches discolor quickly when exposed to the air, so they should be sprinkled with lemon or lime juice, or a fruit “keeper” if not eaten or cooked immediately.
TIP: If you bought peaches that are too firm, put them in a loosely closed paper bag at room temperature for a day or two and they should soften. Note that they won’t become sweeter or ripen further.
Diversity of dishes
Peaches can be dried, canned, made into jams, jellies, and preserves, used as filling for desserts, and used as an ingredient in many other dishes, from appetizers to entrees. Don’t be afraid to experiment with peaches and be sure to enjoy them this month while they’re in their prime!