Picked at Peak: Celebrate Eat a Peach Day on Aug. 22
This fuzzy fruit is a sweet, juicy delight when ripe.
Some fruits are at their best only during the summer despite appearances on some produce bins during winter months. Peaches are one of them.
The sweetness, scent and color of the fruit right now are an invitation to Celebrate Eat a Peach Day on Aug. 22. Put some fresh peaches on your yogurt, make your favorite peach dessert or just take a juicy bite. Afterall, this is National Peach Month.
Picking the perfect peach should be simple. Just go to your favorite grocery store or farmer's stand during the peach season and choose an unblemished piece of fruit. It will probably need to ripen a day or two before your peach will be all that you imagined.
That sounds easy, but more than one peach lover has come home with fruit that is beautiful on the outside and mealy and tasteless on the inside. That experience has sent me to the stack of nectarines (a variety of peach with a smooth skin) more than once. It seems like a safer bet if you want to avoid disappointment.
Yet, the peach reigns supreme when you want to make a cobbler, jam or ice cream. The best choice for those homemade treats comes right off the trees and into your kitchen. That was the case when I was a kid helping a neighbor can peaches and make preserves from the fruit growing in her backyard.
The journey of peaches as a treasured fruit began in China where they are thought to be symbols of immortality and unity. The Chinese started cultivating peaches as early as 1000 B.C.E and from there, the peach traveled the silk roads to Persia and on to Greece.
The Romans transported the peach to European countries. The Spaniards took them to South America, and the French and English introduced them to North America.
Today, Georgia is recognized as the Peach State. However, California produces more than half the peaches grown in the U.S. The variety found in most supermarkets is the Freestone peach in white or yellow varieties. A medium-sized peach contains vitamins A, B and C and just 37 calories.
Avoid using cracked or broken peach pits They contain poisonous hydrocyanic acid. Some recipes do call for simmering peach skins and pits in liquids to pump up the flavor. I found that out making my first batch of homemade peach ice cream.
That brings us back to the mealy question. Other cooks have blogged about this issue. One informative source links the problem to what happens to peaches during transport and storage after they leave the orchard. Buying from local farmers might be better. It all depends on whether the fruit is overexposed to cold temperatures after it is picked.
Another discussion turned up in an unusual place and did offer ideas for avoiding mealy peaches. Some bloggers suggest cooking salvages less than perfect peaches. Others recommend throwing them out.
Once you get your fruit home, ripen the peaches on the counter or inside a paper bag for a day or two. Once you peel and slice the fruit, add a little lemon juice to keep the peaches from turning brown.
Last August, local blogger Michelle Maslov Forman raved about the peaches she buys at Three Springs Farms in Silver Spring over at eatniks.com. (She also listed some great recipes to try.)