As summer moves into its hottest weeks, I think only of peaches…sensual, soft, rich in nutrients and so lush with juice that it runs over our fingers and drips down our chins, cooling us with their sweet, sunny character. I could eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Native to China, the peach is the fruit of a tree discovered in Persia by Westerners during the conquest of Alexander the Great. Believing it to be native to that region, due to its abundance, they named it ‘perscia.’ The Chinese have cultivated the peach since earliest antiquity. This sensual fruit so fascinated them that it spawned legends…from being the key to immortality to being a powerful aphrodisiac.
A close relative of the plum, apricot, cherry and almond, peaches come from trees that can grow to 16 to 26 feet in height. With deciduous leaves, peach trees blossom with magnificent pink flowers that bloom in the spring even before the leaves mature…just a tease for the yummy fruit the tree will bear when summer warms.
The sensual flesh of the peach can be a light golden, a creamy white or a pale greenish white, the latter being rare in the United States, but having the sweetest flavor. No matter the color, the flesh of the peach is juicy, fragrant, sweet, firm and the most seductive of all fruit.
Not only yummy, peaches are a powerhouse of nutrients much needed during the heat of summer…potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, iron, vitamin C, A and niacin…all nutrients that we lose with perspiration. Peaches contain a compound that is said to be a mild diuretic…so no puffy eyes and swollen fingers during hot, humid days.
Peaches are delicate little gems…so handle them carefully as they will spoil rapidly if bruised. Do not pack them too closely as they’ll cause each other to rot quickly. Unripe peaches are best left at room temperature to ripen, but once ripe, keep them in the refrigerator and use them quickly….they’ll only keep for a couple of days. A tip…let peaches come to room temperature before eating, as the flavor is more intensely sweet than when ice cold.
Eaten out of hand, in fruit salads, cobblers, pies, compotes…peaches also lend themselves beautifully to canning, drying and freezing. But my favorite summer recipe combines savory flavors with the sweet sensuality of peaches, intensifying their yumminess. Enjoy.