Just Peachy: How To Buy, Store, And Eat Peaches
When you say something's "peachy," you mean it's better than just OK; in fact, it's splendid. And that's pretty much how you would describe a juicy ripe peach — a most splendid fruit. With peaches in season, here's what you need to know to buy, store, ripen, and feast on peaches all summer long and beyond.
All About Peaches
A peach (prunus persica) is a delicate fruit with juicy, aromatic flesh covered by paper-thin skin that ranges in surface texture from very fuzzy to quite smooth, depending on the variety.
Originally cultivated in China as far back as 1100 B.C., peaches were highly treasured by Chinese royalty. Today you'll find them grown in temperate climates across the globe, including Italy, Spain, Greece, and the United States. China, however, remains the world's foremost source of peaches.
Peach season runs from May through September in the Northern Hemisphere — prime time for enjoying summer's best recipes for peaches.
Fun Fact #1
Peaches are related to roses, almonds, plums, apricots, and cherries.
Know Your Peaches
There are hundred of varieties of peaches, but they all fall into two basic categories: freestone and clingstone.
- Freestone peaches have pits that easily separate from the flesh of the fruit. Freestones are best for eating fresh and for recipes that call for halved or sliced peaches.
- Clingstone peaches have pits that grip the fruit, making it more difficult to halve or slice the flesh. Commercial canners buy the bulk of the clingstone crop. For home cooks, they're good in recipes that call for diced peaches or peach purée.
Fun Fact #2
Although Crayola lists peach as a hue in the orange family, peach flesh can actually range in color from creamy white to deep yellow-orange. White-fleshed peaches tend to be firmer and sweeter with lower acidity than yellow-fleshed peaches.
These Are Peaches, Too
- Saturn peaches, also called Donut peaches, have a squashed, flattened shape and pearly white flesh. This super-sweet freestone peach is a favorite for eating fresh.
- Nectarines are a subspecies of peach and have smooth skins with no fuzz. They, too, have flesh that ranges from white to yellow-orange. Their skins also tend to be redder than most peaches.
Fun Fact #3
Domestically, California tops the list of peach growers, with 620,000 tons to Georgia's 35,500 tons in 2014. Who's the Peach State now, Georgia? But in all fairness, Georgia does hold the record for making "the world's largest peach cobbler."
How to Buy and Store Peaches
Peaches and nectarines are on the "Dirty Dozen" list of fruits you should always buy organic because of lingering pesticides.
Look for plump fruit without bruises or shriveled skin. Depending on the variety, peach skin can be dark red to light blush to pale yellow. Whatever color the skin is, avoid fruit with a greenish tinge around the stem end indicating that the fruit is much too under-ripe.
A ripe peach will give slightly when you press it gently around the shoulders, and will have a sweet aroma when you give it the sniff test. Nectarines tend to be firmer than peaches, but they should still give a little when you press them lightly.
Ripe peaches and nectarines can be stored in the fridge for up to a week; longer storage could damage the flavor and texture of the fruit.
Fun Fact #4
If the peaches you want aren't green but they're still a bit hard, you can ripen the peaches in a paper bag. But if you have peaches that are so green there's no way they'll ripen, you can still use them up. Try this recipe for Peach Relish from Deep South Cakery.
How to Eat Peaches
Recipe shown: Juicy Peach Crisp
You just pick one up and bite into it, right? And don't forget to wipe off all the juice that dribbles down your chin. But like almost any fruit, peaches can be enjoyed either raw or cooked. Before you get started, you might want to see how to peel and slice peaches.
Peaches for breakfast? Yes, please!
Slice and dice them to add juicy sweetness to summer salads.
Churn them into ice cream and sorbet.
Drink them up in smoothies, sangrias, and cocktails.
Mix them up with spicy extras to make sassy salsas and sauces
Fire them up on the grill.
Pair them with meats and fish in savory peach recipes.
Fun Fact #5
Allrecipes's most popular peach recipe is Fresh Southern Peach Cobbler, with 2000+ reviews and 300+ photos.
Fresh vs. Frozen or Canned
Nope, there's nothing like biting into a fresh, ripe peach. But when peaches aren't in season, you can still turn to frozen or canned peaches without sacrificing quality. That's because peaches that are going to be commercially frozen or canned are picked at the peak of ripeness and quickly processed, preserving most of their nutrients. Read the labels, though, to make sure you know what else is in the package besides peaches; peaches are often frozen and canned in a sugar syrup to maintain sweetness and color.
Frozen peaches are about as close to a fresh peach as you can get. You can freeze ripe peaches by peeling, slicing, and freezing the slices. Better Homes and Gardens has step-by-step instructions for freezing peaches in syrups.
If you want to try your hand at canning, give these recipes a try:
- Spicy Peach Chutney
- Peach Preserves
- Ginger-Peach Jam
- Nana's Southern Pickled Peaches
- Georgia Spiced Peaches
Health and Nutrition
A medium peach )about 150 grams) contains about 59 calories and 15 grams of carbohydrates (2 grams dietary fiber and 13 grams sugar). While peaches are a good source of fiber and vitamins A and C, they do tend to be a sugary fruit.
Related Peachy Goodness
- Discover 400+ recipes for peaches, including pies, cobblers, and peaches on the grill. No time to browse? Here's a shortcut to the best peach desserts.
- Speaking of pie, here's how to keep a peach pie crust from getting mushy.