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Peaches

The peach belongs to the Rose family (Prunus) and is classified as a stone fruit or drupe.  An aromatic sweet and juicy medium-sized round fruit with a downy thin skin, the peach ranges in color from a red-blushed yellow gold to a pink-blushed creamy white (depends on the variety).  A succulent orange, yellow or white flesh surrounds a hard central wrinkled stone or pit that is sometimes cracked open to reveal the seed or kernel.

Peaches are divided into two classifications:  'Clingstone' and 'Freestone', with many varieties within each classification.  The names (Clingstone and Freestone) refer to how easily the flesh of the peach separates from the stone.  The Clingstone is exactly that - the flesh clings stubbornly to the central stone or pit.  On the other hand, the Freestone's flesh is easily separated from the stone.  The Clingstone has a firmer, drier pulp and is widely used commercially for canning and preserves.  Because Clingstones are the first available peach of the season (May-June) you may find them in grocery stores.  Freestone peaches, however, are the ones most often found in grocery stores during the summer months.   Their flesh is juicy, sweet and flavorful which makes them ideal for baking and cooking. 

When choosing peaches look for fragrant, smooth, firm and brightly-colored fruit that gives slightly to gentle palm pressure.  Avoid hard wrinkled peaches or ones with soft spots, blemishes or green tinges (a sign that the fruit was picked too early).  The amount of red blush on a peach is a sign of its variety, not its ripeness.  Peaches will not ripen or become sweeter after they are picked but they will soften and become juicier in day or two if left at room temperature.  To quicken the softening of the fruit, place in a pierced paper bag with an apple or banana.  The ethylene gas given off by these fruits hastens the softening process.  Once soft, and if not used immediately, store in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for a few days.  Bring cold peaches to room temperature before using to bring out their full flavor. 

Unfortunately, when you buy firm peaches it is hard to know what you are getting.  Bruises and/or brown rot are usually undetectable when buying the fruit, and only become apparent once they soften.  Bruises can be caused during shipping and handling, and brown rot is the result of a rainy growing season.  The texture of the flesh is unknown also when buying peaches and quality can be irregular, even within the same shipment.  A wooly or mealy - textured flesh can be the result of keeping the fruit in cold storage too long or else harvesting the fruit too late.  Follow the above guidelines for choosing peaches and buy from a reputable supplier.

To remove the skin of the peach, first make an 'X' in the base of the peach with a sharp knife so you can test for looseness of the skin before peeling.  Then drop the peach into a pot of boiling water for 20-30 seconds.  Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and immediately plunge the peach into ice water.  Cut the peach in half so it doesn't slip and then peel the skin away from the flesh using a sharp knife.  Cut or peeled peaches discolor rapidly when exposed to air, so if not using right away, drizzle or toss with a small amount of lemon juice, wine or liqueur to retard browning. 

Peaches originated in China but are now grown in temperate climates throughout the world.  The peach tree is delicate and prone to disease and cannot tolerate extremes in temperature.  The peach came to Europe through Persia and is sometimes known by its Latin name 'Persian Plum'.

YIELD -

1 pound (454 grams) = 3-4 medium peaches = 2-3 cups sliced or chopped

FACTS:

- Peaches are at their best when just ripe and at room temperature.

- New hybrid was developed to reduce the fuzziness so now the skin is just downy soft.

- Could not develop a fuzz-less peach so a machine was invented to gently rub off the remaining fuzz.  Since then sales of peaches have shot up.

- Peaches do not ripen after picking, only soften.

- Peach trees only survive about 20 years.

- Most of the vitamins of the peach are in the skin.

- White peaches, although not commonly available, are said to be superior in flavor.

- The red 'blush' on a peach is due the variety and is not a sign of ripeness.

- When baking with peaches remove the skin (peel) first, as the skin becomes tough when cooked.

- Peach kernels are used in making liqueurs and found in marzipan, peach jams and jellies.

- Closely related to the nectarine.

- Try placing a peach slice in a glass of white wine.

- Chinese believe the peach is a symbol of immortality.

Note:  If you live in Canada, my personal preference is the Ontario Peach.  If you live in the States, my preference is the peaches of Georgia and the Carolinas.