Despite their wonderful sweetness, peaches don't have a lot of calories. Add a scoop of frozen yogurt or bake them into a pie and obviously the calorie count goes up.
But a medium size (150 g) fresh peach eaten out of hand has only 58 calories and provides 2 grams of dietary fibre. Peaches also contain other nutrients and antioxidants including potassium, vitamin C, beta-carotene, and lutein and zeaxanthin.
There are over 200 varieties of peaches, most of which fall into one of two general classifications - freestone, in which case the stone or pit falls easily away from the flesh, and clingstone, where the fruit adheres stubbornly to the pit. A few varieties fall in between and are referred to as semi-freestone.
The firmer textured clingstones are widely used for canning and other commercial uses. It's generally the freestone varieties that you will find in the produce aisle of the grocery store and farmers markets. Popular varieties in ripening order include Harrow Diamond, Garnet Beauty, Early Redhaven, Redhaven, Vivid, Loring and Harrow Beauty.
The fuzzy skin of the peach can range from pink-blushed creamy-white to red-blushed yellow and its flesh from pinkish-white to yellow-gold.
If you're buying peaches to eat the same day, it's best to look for fruit that is soft, gives to gentle pressure and has a sweet aroma. Because they bruise easily, be sure to check them over for soft spots or blemishes. Look for plump, medium to large peaches.
Otherwise look for fruit that is quite firm. It will ripen over the next few days.
Choose peaches that have a smooth skin free of blemishes and mushy spots, a sweet fragrance and a background color of yellow, warm cream or light peach. If the skin is wrinkled or has a greenish tinge at the end, do not buy. Avoid dark-colored peaches. Tan circles or spots on the skin are early signs of spoiling.
Firm peaches will ripen if they are kept at room temperature out of direct sunlight. If desired, you can put them in a paper bag that has been pierced in several places. Check the fruit daily. Do not use a plastic bag; it can cause the fruit to develop off-flavours and to spoil.
Adding an apple to a paper bag full of peaches will speed ripening because apples give off ethylene gas. This gas is what encourages the ripening process.
Ripe peaches should be kept refrigerated in a single layer for up to 5 days. Bring to room temperature before eating. Overripe (very soft) peaches should be used, fresh or in cooking the day they are purchased.
To prepare for preserving and baking
Gently rinse under cool running water. Quickly blanching peaches beforehand will make peeling easier. Immerse peaches in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds. The skins may split. Plunge them immediately into ice water to cool and stop the cooking process. The skins should slip off.
To halve a freestone peach, cut it along the seam right down to the stone and twist the halves apart. Lift out the stone with the tip of a small knife. Slice or quarter the flesh of a clingstone peach by making cuts into the fruit, then lifting each section off the stone.
Place peeled, halved, pitted peaches, cut-side up, in a glass baking pan. Brush with lemon, orange or other citrus juice to prevent browning and to add flavor. Sprinkle with brown sugar and baked in a 325ÃŒÅ F oven until hot and tender when pierced with a knife. Cooking time is approximately 25 minutes.
Place peeled, halved, pitted peaches on the grill or under the broiler. Brush with lemon or orange juice and cook until heated through. Cooking time is approximately 6-8 minutes.
Immerse peach halves, quarters or slices in simmering fruit juice, wine or water. Cook until tender. For slices about 3 minutes; for halves and quarters 3-7 minutes.
Some might argue that a fresh peach is best eaten out of hand. However there are many dishes where the peach, and its juicy sweetness, shines through. These include: peach pie, peach sundaes, Peach Melba, peach ice cream, peach cobbler, grilled peaches, peach jam, brandied peaches, peach preserves, peaches and cream.
Healthy Ways to Enjoy Peaches
- Slice peaches and add to your favourite cereal or use as a topping for pancakes and waffles.
- Make a peach smoothie with yogurt and peaches in a blender for breakfast or an anytime snack.
- Spread your morning toast with homemade peach preserves.
- Look for recipes for baked goods such as quickbreads and muffins that call for fresh peaches.
- Mix Greek or Icelandic yogurt or cottage cheese with cut up fresh peaches.
- Add sliced fresh peach to a lunch size fruit or green salad.
- Mke a peach salsa to add zip sandwiches and wraps.
- Start a summer meal with a refreshing chilled peach soup.
- Grill, broil or bake peach halves to serve as a sweet side dish to roasted or grilled meats or to toss with fresh mixed greens.
- For a classic dinner party dessert, look for a recipe in your cookbooks for Peach Melba.
- Top angel food cake or frozen yogurt with fresh sliced peaches and their juice.
- Freeze a can of peaches in the freezer, then open and puree in a blender for a great summer sorbet.
- Grab a fresh peach and take a bite!
Did you know?
Peach Melba, a dessert made with two poached peach halves served with vanilla ice cream and topped with a raspberry sauce, was created in the late 1800s by the famous French chef Escoffier for Dame Nellie Melba, a popular Australian opera singer.
- Apples, Peaches & Pears by Elizabeth Baird, James Lorimer Co., 2002.
- Peaches, Pears & Plums by Elaine Elliott, Formac Publishing Co. Ltd., 1999.