Peaches are the quintessential summer food. Their sweet flavor and rosy complexion speak to the warmth of July and August when they first begin showing themselves. The flavor can range from cloyingly sweet to refreshing with a bit of tang.
What are they?
Peaches are native to northwest China and a member of the rose family, Rosaceae. They are distinguished by the velvety, soft skin and light colored fruit meat. They are a close relative of the almond and a member of the stone fruit family, fruits with one large center or middle seed, which includes cherries, apricots, plums and nectarines. Peaches are divided into two groups based on the pit; freestone (meaning the fruit flesh doesn’t adhere to the pit) and clingstone (meaning the fruit flesh does stick or cling to the pit). Freestone are generally used for canning because the fruit meat is not lost on the pit and the clingstone varieties are primarily available for fresh eating and at farm stands and supermarkets.
Peaches prefer to grow in slightly acidic sandy loam soil with good drainage and a pH level of 6.0 to 6.5. Sunshine is their friend and to thrive they need at least 6 hours of full daylight sun per day during their growing season. Peach trees can survive in the coldest of winters, but need an average temperature of 75 degrees in the summer to grow.
History of the peach
Peaches are historically significant in Chinese culture and writings mention them as early as the 10th century. The blossoms are carried by Chinese brides and the peach tree is a symbol of immortality and unity. The peach tree is considered the “tree of life”. Asian populations generally prefer the white flesh varieties of peaches that are sweeter and less acidic than the yellow skin, yellow flesh varieties often found in the United States.
Peaches began to move west from China when Alexander the Great brought them to Persia and by 50 B.C.E. the Romans were buying and selling them as an expensive treat. The translated Latin name for the peach is the “Persian apple”. Spanish explorers brought the peach to South America and after it arrived in England and France, it became a very rare, popular treat. George Minifie, an English horticulturalist, is credited with bringing the peach to America in the 17th century and planting them at his estate in Virginia.
During the 19th century, commercial peach production began and was in full swing in California, Washington, South Carolina, Georgia and Missouri by the end of the 20th century.
- Prunus persica
Peaches are as delicious as they are healthy. They are a great addition to any diet and provide a number of health benefits in a compact and tasty package.
According to a study at Texas A&M, peaches (and other stone fruits like nectarines and plums) have been show to help ward off obesity-related diseases like cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and diabetes. The researchers attributed the high levels of bio-active and phenolic compounds to helping lower LDL cholesterol level. These compounds have both anti-obesity and anti-inflammatory properties and the phenolic compounds fall into four main groups that work together to ward off obesity related illnesses. These four groups are anthocyanins, chlorogenic acids, quercetins and catechins.
Peaches are high in vitamin C and one medium peach meets 15% your daily needs. Because peaches are an excellent source of vitamin C, they have been shown to help fight the formation of some cancer causing free radicals. The research is unclear on how much, in a daily quantity, must be consumed to measurably reduce this risk. A different study at Texas A&M looked at the effect of stone fruit extracts, peaches and plums, to kill breast cancer cells. These extracts killed even the most aggressive breast cancer cells and did not damage the surrounding healthy tissue and cells.
It has been shown that diets high in fiber can help improve blood sugar, lipids and insulin levels in type 2 diabetics and lower blood glucose levels in type 1 diabetics. One medium peach contains about 2 grams of fiber. The fiber, potassium and vitamin C levels of peaches also contribute to heart health.
According to ancient Chinese medicine, peach tea is used as a kidney cleanser.
One raw medium peach: appx. 10 slices
0.5 grams of fat
0 grams of cholesterol
0 grams of sodium
15 grams of carbohydrate
13 grams of sugar
2 grams of fiber
1 gram of protein
Vitamin C – 15% daily needs
Vitamin A – 6% daily needs
Directions for “How To Peel a Peach”
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boiling on the stove top.
Prepare an ice water bath in a separate bowl set on the counter top.
Gently place a few peaches in to the boiling water. Do not overfill the pot.
A ripe peach needs only 45 seconds in the water, but a green-ish (not quite ripe) peach needs a longer period of time in the water.
Quickly remove the peach using a slotted spoon or strainer and put in the ice water bath.
Use your fingernail or a butter knife to slit the skin and pull back the loosened skin. The skins should slide right off the peach in one piece.
Peach Salsa by Natasha’s Kitchen
1 pound of tomatoes, diced
1 bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
2 jalapenos, seeded and finely diced
1 medium onion, finely diced
1-1/2 pounds of sliced peaches
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp lime juice
1-1/2 tsp salt or to taste
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper or to taste
Add all vegetables (tomatoes, bell pepper, jalapenos and onions) and peaches to a serving bowl.
Add chopped cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper.
Fold everything together until well mixed. Add more salt and pepper if desired.
Peach Creamsicles by The Cookie Rookie
1.5 lbs peaches sliced
1-1/2 cups vanilla Greek yogurt
1-1/2 cups peach nectar (or peach juice)
Combine the Greek yogurt and diced peaches.
Pour the yogurt mixture into each popsicle mold, filling about halfway up. If necessary, use a spoon to push down the yogurt so that it reaches the bottom of each mold.
Place molds in the freezer and freeze for at least 4 hours.
Pour nectar into each mold, filling to the top. Freeze again, for at least another 4 hours.
August is National Peach Month.
The biggest producers of peaches are China and Italy.
Nectarines are a variety of peach with smooth skin.
A peach pit contains hydrocyanic acid, a poisonous substance.
California produces 50% of the peaches in the United States and grows 175 different varieties.
How to plant and grow peaches: https://almanac.com/plant/peaches
Peach Varieties: https://localfoods.about.com/od/summer/tp/PeachVarieties.htm