It will probably surprise you to learn that a peach (Prunus persica) belongs to the rose family. It grows on a deciduous tree. The peach has a soft fuzzy skin that is pinkish-orange or gold-yellow and an off-white or yellowish pulp. There is a large crease in the round peach. After cutting a peach open, you will find one large seed nestled in a bed of woody husk.
A ripe peach is juicy and sweet. It is delicious and nutritious too. Peaches supply dietary fiber in addition to Vitamins A and C. You can eat peaches and satisfy your sweet tooth without worrying about saturated fat or cholesterol.
Choosing the Best
A peach can be bruised easily on the outside and/or inside when it is ripe. The best peaches will be firm but have some give when gently pressed with the whole hand. Hard peaches are not ripe. The trick to buying good peaches is to choose ones that are not green (unripe) but not over ripe either. You want them to last long enough at home for you to enjoy.
When buying peaches, you should look for bruises, dents or cuts in the skin. Any spots that are sticky indicate the juice is escaping. The skin should be nicely colored and not wrinkled. Wrinkled or shriveled skin indicates an aging peach. You should also check to make sure the peach is not green around the stem area.
The peach should also have a pleasantly sweet odor.
If the peaches you buy are not fully ripe you will need to:
- Set on the kitchen counter or table or place in a brown paper bag and let ripen
- Once ripe, store in the refrigerator in the crisper
You don’t want to wash them before storage because moisture can cause rot.
To freeze peaches, do the following:
- Prepare an anti-darkening agent purchased at the store or mix 1 tablespoon of lemon juice with 1 quart of water in a mixing bowl
- Mix anti-darkening mixture with sugar water
- Wash peaches under cold water
- Peel the peach
- Cut peaches in half or slice into sections
- Discard seed
- Pour anti-darkening agent and sugar syrup into containers leaving room to add peaches
- Add peaches to container so that syrup covers the fruit
- Seal the container
You can also mix peaches with plain sugar and an anti-darkening agent rather than in sugar syrup and then freeze. Peaches can remain frozen for approximately 12 months.
Preparing and Cooking
Peaches can be eaten raw with or without the skin. Wash the peach under cold water and pat dry before eating. If you don’t want to eat the fuzz, it will easily come off by rubbing the peach with a paper towel. Be careful biting into the peach so you don’t hit the hard pit with your teeth.
If you want to slice peaches for recipes:
- Peel the peach
- Cut along the seam on the outside with a knife all the way to the pit
- Put one hand on top and one hand on the bottom and twist in the opposite directions until two halves separate
- Remove the pit
- Cut then halves of peach into sections
An easy way to peel peaches is to drop them in boiling water for one minute. Remove the peaches from the boiling water and immediately drop into cold water for another minute. Remove the peaches from the water. The skins should come off easily.
Sliced peaches are used in so many wonderful recipes. They can be added to fruit salads or eaten by themselves with whipped cream. Peaches can be mashed and served over shortcake with whipped cream. Sliced peaches are made into pies, cobblers, muffins and tarts. Peaches also make a great topping for pork and chicken. Sliced peaches go well with cereal or hot oatmeal too.
Peaches are full of phytochemicals which can prevent cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. Peaches are also loaded with vitamins and minerals including a high level of Vitamin A. Vitamin A is a beta carotene or an antioxidant needed by cells to fight against free radical damage. Vitamin C is important for maintaining a strong immune system.
One (1) peach has significant quantities of the following nutrients:
- Vitamin A – 570 I.U.
- Vitamin C – 11.6 mg
- Vitamin K – 4.6 mcg
- Dietary fiber – 2.6 g
- Folate – 7.0 mcg
- No cholesterol
- No saturated fat
- Calcium – 10.5 mg
- Phosphorous – 35.0 mg
- Potassium – 333 mg
- Magnesium – 15.7 mcg
- Omega-6 fatty acids – 147 mg
Though excellent tasting in desserts, the best peach is simply the plain peach.