Also known as
Peaches can be red, pink, yellow, white, or a combination of those colors. On one side of the fruit is a distinctive vertical indentation. Peaches and nectarines look very similar, but they can be told apart by their skin texture: peaches are fuzzy and dull, while nectarines are smooth and shiny.
It is a deciduous tree growing to 5-10 m tall, belonging to the subfamily Prunoideae. The fruit is a drupe, with a single large seed encased in hard wood (called the "stone" or "pit"), yellow or whitish flesh, a delicate aroma, and a skin that is either velvety (peaches) or smooth (nectarines) in different cultivars. The flesh is very delicate and easily bruised in some cultivars, but is fairly firm in some commercial cultivars, especially when green. The seed is red-brown, oval shaped and 1.5-2 cm long. Peaches, along with cherries, plums and apricots, are stone fruits (drupes).
Peaches can be peeled or unpeeled, as desired. Take a sharp knife, slice it from the top to remove the stem and then cut it vertically into half from the centre. Cut the half portion into another half vertically and remove the seed from the centre. Cut each portion into long strips of the desired thickness. Line all the strips together on the chopping board and chop by horizontally by cutting them in small pieces approximately ¼ inch in diameter, although the chopped food doesn't need to be exactly the same size. If the recipe calls for the ingredients to be "roughly chopped," make the pieces slightly larger.
Take a sharp knife, slice it from the top to remove the stem and then cut it vertically into half from the centre. Cut the half portion into another half vertically and remove the seed from the centre. Cut each portion into thick long strips. Line up the strips with your non-working hand and cut them horizontally into big square pieces. Cube them as per the recipe's need regarding the size of the cubes, (for example, "cut into ½-inch cubes").
Choose ripe, mature fruits of ideal quality. Wash the peaches. Slice the top stem using a sharp knife and make a cut lengthwise to make 2 halves. Remove the seed from the centre. A melon baller or metal measuring spoon is suitable for coring the peach.
To make the peach puree, peel, chop it into halves, remove the seed and cut the fresh peach into medium sized cubes. Combine the peach cubes with sugar in a broad non stick pan and cook until fruit is soft and sugar is just starting to caramelize. Cool slightly and puree in a food processor until smooth. Preserve it in a sterilized bottle in the deep freezer for further use.
Take a sharp knife, slice it from the top to remove the stem and then cut it vertically into half from the centre. Cut the half portion into another half vertically and remove the seed from the centre. Slice using a sharp knife by cutting vertically across the cutting board. Slice them thinly or thickly as the recipe requirement, can used as a garnish.
How to Select
July and August are peak season for fresh peaches. Choose peaches that are firm to the touch, but whose flesh will yield with gentle pressure. The fruits should be unblemished and free of bruises, with a warm, fragrant aroma.
Most peaches will have a rosy blush to the skin, but this is usually just a variety trait and not necessarily an indication of quality. A good indicator of maturity is a well-defined cleft in the shape of the peach. Avoid those with any hint of green as they will never fully ripen. Although peaches will continue to ripen after being picked from the tree, the sugar production ceases once plucked and will not increase even though the fruit may soften.
Under ripe peaches can be ripened somewhat by placing them in a paper bag punched with holes at room temperature in a spot away from sunlight.
To remove the seed, slice lengthwise 360 degrees around the pit down to the stone. Twist each half simultaneously in opposite directions. Freestone peaches should separate easily.
· Add sliced peach to hot or cold cereal.
· The next time you make whole grain pancakes add some chopped peach to the batter.
· Serve fresh peaches in your green salad when they are in season
· Its juicy, sweet, fragrant flesh is a favorite in pies, pastries, and desserts, but creative chefs have found marvelous uses for the peach in a variety of savory dishes.
· Peach pulp or chunks are often topped with vanilla ice cream, and garnished.
· Other popular peach uses include jelly, jam, ice cream, liqueur, and brandy.
· The flesh of peaches will darken with exposure to air, so they must be cooked or eaten immediately once cut or further treated. The darkening can be retarded by dipping the cut pieces in an acidic juice of citrus or pineapple, either diluted with water or full strength.
· For sweet dishes, you may prefer to use pineapple or orange juice as the acid rather than the more tart lemon or lime juice. For savory dishes, lemon or lime is usually the choice.
· Washing peaches will remove most of the fuzz.
· For a simple, yet elegant dessert, try vanilla bean ice cream topped with sliced peaches.
How to Store
Since peaches are highly perishable, purchase only the amount you need to use within a few days or plan on preserving them for long-term storage. The fruit should not be washed until just before you intend to use it. When storing fresh peaches at room temperature, be sure there is enough space between them to allow proper air circulation. Fresh peaches can be kept at room temperature three to four days, depending on how ripe they are when you buy them.
Refrigeration will extend their life, but not by more than a day or two. Peaches need humidity, so refrigerate in a plastic bag and use within two days. Ideally, let refrigerated peaches come close to room temperature before eating (about 30 minutes), as the flavor will be more full and robust.
The seed stone will impart a bitter flavor, so be sure to remove it before canning or freezing peaches. Peaches frozen in a sugar pack result in a better product than those frozen in plain water. Better quality is also served if you peel raw peaches rather than blanching before freezing. If the fruits are overly ripe, puree or chop the fruit, add an acidic juice to keep the fruit from darkening, and freeze in a tightly-sealed container or plastic zip-top bag with air removed.
· Peaches contain a goodly amount of potassium and also contain vitamins C and A.
· They have diuretic and laxative properties, aid in the stimulation of digestive juices, and add color to the complexion.
· Peach leaf tea destroys worms. As with most foods, prolonged cooking will leach vital nutrients from peaches.
· Peach pits contain a toxic substance known as hydrocyanic acid or cyanide which should be avoided. Ingestion of large quantities of the pits can be fatal.
· Fresh peaches are low in calories and can be eaten freely.
· If canned in syrup, however, their calorie counts increase significantly.
· The fruit has a gentle laxative effect.
· Peaches are also rich in Vitamin C, Iron and Potassium.