Does your mouth water at the thought of biting into a juicy summer peach? If you're a farm fresh fruit opportunist like we are, you're ready to load up on your favorite fruit at the farmers' market and enjoy every delicious bite.
Peaches, like other stone fruits, are perfectly ripe and bountiful in the summer. In the U.S. we consider Georgia to be the land of peaches, but in fact China is the world's largest producer of the peach. Peach trees are native to Northwest China where they were domesticated and cultivated. Because peaches grow well in temperate, not tropical, climates, peaches are well suited to many parts of the United States, especially Georgia, South Carolina, and California. The trees flower in the spring and produce fruit in the summer.
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Peaches are classified by their stone or pit as either freestone or clingstone. Freestone peaches do not cling to their pits, so the pit is easier to remove, and are most common at the market or grocery store. The freestone variety is best to eat out of hand or to use when preparing a dish for easy slice-ability. Clingstone peaches do cling to the pits and are used for canning and preserving.
Both freestone and clingstone peaches have a fuzzy exterior and can be found with yellow or white flesh. Yellow-flesh peaches are more tart while white-flesh peaches have a mellow acidity. Nectarines, another summer stone fruit favorite, are actually peaches in disguise! They are sold commercially as a separate and distinct variety but are the same species as the peach. Nectarines have a similar flesh and flavor profile, but the skin of the nectarine is smooth instead of fuzzy!
When selecting a peach at the market, smell it! A good peach will smell delicious and taste even better! Make sure there is a defined crease in the skin of the peach and no wrinkles indicating dryness or mushiness. Peaches bruise easily, so be gentle when testing firmness. Skin color may range from yellow to golden orange to red, but the color of the skin does not indicate ripeness. Store your fresh peaches at room temperature until perfectly ripe. To maintain ripeness, they can be placed in the crisper drawer of the fridge for a few days.
Summer months June, July, and August are peak peach season when the fruit is at its freshest and most bountiful. Out of season, it's possible to find and buy good peaches frozen to use in smoothies. Stay away from canned peaches which are unexpectedly high in sugar! Peaches already have about 13 grams of natural sugar per large peach and about 65 calories. They're also high in vitamin C and beta-carotene.
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Nothing beats a fresh, sweet peach eaten out of hand, but peaches are also great in smoothies, salsas, and even on the grill! If the prized family recipe for peach cobbler is a little too decadent, try our Skinny Peach Berry Cobbler. A simple dessert of Roasted Peaches with Honey and Cinnamon will satisfy your sweet tooth, or you can even grill peaches and other fruits for a smoky-sweet twist. Peaches work great on the savory end of a meal, as well. Our Grilled Chicken, Peach, and Avocado Salad is the perfect summer salad.
Click here for additional tips and tricks to peel, slice, and freeze peaches.