Contributed by Katy Morris
Juicy, refreshing, healthy, sweet peaches; what could be more quintessentially SUMMER than a perfectly ripe peach?
Tossed in salads, dipped in yogurt parfaits, baked in pies, blended in smoothies, chopped in iced teas, grilled, poached, heck – straight out of hand! There are so many ways to enjoy locally grown, luscious peaches this season.
Here’s what you may NOT know:
Over 300 varieties!
Peaches are part of the “stone fruit” group, along with nectarines, cherries and plums, referred to as such due to their large, hard pits/seeds. They originated from China but spread around the world over many centuries and now grow in mild, warm climates throughout.
There are two main types: white and yellow, although there are many varieties of each color (there are over 300 varieties grown in North America alone!). Did you know that peaches are actually 87% water? And at only 50 calories for a medium sized peach, you get a generous dose of vitamin C, A, and iron.
What’s the difference between a white peach and a yellow peach?
Most peaches in America are yellow fleshed. Yellow peaches have a deeper yellow color with red blush spots and are more acidic and tart in taste. In contrast, white-fleshed peaches, which are more popular in Asia, are lighter in color and much less acidic (and sweeter).
Freestone or Clingstone?
Peaches are either freestone or clingstone. You can easily remove the pit from the flesh in a freestone peach, so these are the ones you’ll be nibbling on out of hand. Pits of clingstone peaches tend to (you guessed it…) cling to the flesh, making it difficult to separate. They are softer and juicer than freestones. These are most popular for canning and baking and are easily found at local markets versus large grocery stores.
What should I look for when buying peaches?
We recommend buying peaches at least a day in advance of preparing and serving them. Stay away from bruised, wrinkly, and green ones at the market. When gently squeezed (use your whole hand versus pinching them with your fingers as they bruise easily), there should be a slight give of the velvety skin.
Be sure to give your peaches a good whiff – you want the ones that smell like you want them to taste. If there isn’t a tantalizing aroma it means the peach has not ripened yet. Also, note that the reddish blush does not necessarily mean it is ripe – that is just where the sun was shining most brightly on it when it was growing. The lighter the coloration of the peach, the less ripe it is.
How should I store and ripen them?
This really depends on how ripe the peaches are that you buy. If you happen to pick up a bunch of ripened peaches (as described above) but don’t want to eat them right away, put them in a plastic bag in your fridge, as the chilled temperature slows the ripening process. It’s also important to note that if you have some with bruises/spots on them, you should separate those from the non-bruised ones since the rot can easily spread to other peaches.
If you get ones that are not ready to be eaten, simply leave them on your kitchen counter, but keep an eye on them since they can go from ripe to rotten pretty quickly. If you need to speed up the ripening process, try putting them in a brown paper bag (with a few holes so the peaches can still breathe) for a couple of days.
Did you go peach crazy at the local market? No problem – you can freeze them for up to 6 months! Make sure you peel and slice them first and spread them out on a large tray before putting in the freezer. Once they are frozen through, you can throw them in a sealed plastic bag.
How should I prepare them?
Peaches are super versatile, which is one of the reasons we love them so much. When prepping them, simply wash them thoroughly as you would any other fruit. After slicing or chopping them, depending on the dish you are making, toss with a bit of lemon juice to prevent browning.
If you are going to be making a pie, go with slightly firmer ones and they will keep their shape when baked. Does your recipe call for peeling them (like the one below)? Make a quick “X” with a sharp knife on both the bottom and the top of the peach and then blanch them for about 30-45 seconds to loosen their skin. Then “shock” them in a big pot of ice water to stop the cooking, remove them, and you should be able to peel the skin with your nimble fingers.
This refreshing, oh-so peachy and only slightly spicy salsa is a perfect topping for grilled fish or chicken on a summer night. You know all about the timeless deliciousness of surrounding a bowl of fresh salsa with crunchy tortilla chips and with your favorite frosty refreshing beer in hand.
What fruit would you like to experiment with in your next salsa creation? We want to know!
Seasonal salsas are a great way to take advantage of the many fruits available at your local market. Make them as spicy as you like by adjusting (or eliminating) hot pepper.
This salsa is vegan and pareve (non-dairy).
- 4 small ripe peaches, peeled (see above!) and diced
- 3-4 tomatoes, diced
- 1 red onion, diced
- 1 small green chili pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 cup pineapple, diced
- ¾ cup cilantro, chopped
- 2 limes, juiced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ¼ cup mint, chopped
- salt to taste
- Simply mix all together in large mixing bowl.
- Serve chilled.
See post (above) for instructions on how to peel peaches. It's easy!