The peach is a deciduous tree native to China and South Asia. It is considered to be "the tree of life" and symbol of immortality and unity. It is a member of the rose family. Peaches have been cultivated in China since 2000 BCE. Alexander the Great introduced the peach into Europe. Peaches were originally planted in St. Augustine, Florida, but were introduced by Franciscan monks into St. Simon and Cumberland islands along the Georgia coast in 1571. Today China is the world's largest producer of peaches followed by Italy. California produces 50% of the peaches in the U.S. growing 175 varieties. Peaches are also grown in Georgia and South Carolina. The peach is the state fruit of South Carolina, and Georgia is nicknamed "The Peach State".
Peaches and nectarines are actually the same species, but are regarded commercially as different fruits. The nectarine has a smooth skin whereas the peach has a fuzzy skin. Many erroneously believe that the nectarine is a cross between a peach and a plum. This is just not correct. The peach is a climacteric fruit, which means it continues to ripen after being picked. More than 80 chemical compounds contribute to the peach's aroma.
Cultivated peaches are divided into clingstone and freestone depending on whether the flesh of the peach sticks to the stone (i.e. the pit). There are hundreds of varieties. Peaches with white flesh are typically very sweet with little acidity. Yellow-fleshed peaches typically have an acid tang coupled with sweetness. White fleshed are most popular in China, Japan, and neighboring Asian countries. Europeans and North Americans historically favor the acidic yellow-fleshed peach.
When I was a kid, I remember one time my Grandfather buried some peach pits in the yard to see if they would grow. They did not grow in Brooklyn, New York, but it was fun to experiment. Then I remember how we would have peaches in wine. What a summer treat. See below for how easy it is to make..
Peaches are available year round, but the season for fresh U.S. peaches is from May to October. August is National Peach Month. Peaches are most nutritious when eaten raw. They are low calorie (38 calories for a medium peach) and cholesterol free. Peaches are a good source of energy, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, iron, potassium, and Vitamins A, B, and C. They are also a rich source of bioactive compounds including phenolic acid, anthrocyanins, flavonoids, and procyanidins.
Look for peaches that are heavy for their size with a rich color and possibly a slight whitish bloom. They should yield to slight pressure and have a sweet aroma. Avoid peaches that are excessively soft or with cuts or bruises. Store unripe peaches in a paper bag to ripen. When ripe, store at room temperature and use within a few days. Incidentally, a study in the "Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture" found that canned peaches are as loaded with nutrients as fresh peaches.
Peaches are great to eat out of hand. Just wash thoroughly and rub with a paper towel to remove the fuzz. Sliced peaches should tossed with lemon juice to retard browning. Peaches are easy to use in smoothies, fruit salads, or soaked in red wine. Peaches are used in jams, cakes and cobblers, and to add a tangy sweetness to poultry, pork, or veal dishes. Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, coriander, sherry, marsala, and rum can be used to enhance peach dishes. Peaches are great when grilled.
To remove the skin of a peach score the bottom of the peach with an "X". Placed the scored peach in boiling water to blanch for 40 seconds. Carefully remove from boiling water and place in an ice bath for one minute. Remove from the ice bath, let drain and pat dry. The skin will then easily peel off the peach.
So eat up! Enjoy! I'll show you how.
Simple but good:Peaches soaked in wine:
2 or 3 fresh peaches
red wine of your choice
Place peeled and sliced fresh peaches in a jar or other coverable container. Sprinkle the peaches with sugar. Pour enough red wine to cover the peaches. Cover the jar or container and put in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, but he longer the better. Enjoy on a sultry summer evening.