Life’s a peach
Furry, firm and smells good. What’s not to love about a peach? Originating in China 4,000 years ago, peaches are members of the Rose family that also includes, plums, apricots and cherries.
Nectarines are a variety of peach with a Brazilian wax gene.
While being frugal with kilojoules, peaches also rate low on the glycaemic index scale, giving them a weight loss tick of approval. Nutritionally peaches offer decent amounts of vitamin C, potassium, beta-carotene and fibre, making them the fruit of choice during their short season.
From China where peach blossom is still revered as a symbol of virginity and fertility (surely a contradiction), the peach travelled to Persia, hence it’s botanical name, Prunus persica. From Persia (now Iran), Alexander the Great lugged a peach tree to Europe where its progeny became a favourite with the Greeks and Romans. There’s evidence from Pompeii that locals were fond of planting a peach tree in their front yards. Peaches are now grown worldwide, with America being the largest producer, although their peaches mainly head for life in a can.
Peaches are classified as to whether they are clingstone or freestone, distinguished by the ease with which the flesh comes away from the stone. Additionally, they come in either white or yellow flesh. The yellow variety being more common, while the white is highly prized by foodies for it’s delicate rose-scented flesh.
I knew I reached ‘old’ when I began to mourn the peaches of my childhood. Peaches then were huge. They were juicy, they were firm, with flesh the colour of a tropical sunset – orange of a Buddhist monk’s robe and crimson around the seed. Their taste epitomised the honey sweet days of late summer. It’s apparently picking them before fully ripe on the tree and time spent in the cool room that causes today’s peaches to have a flavour bypass and a mealy texture. Thankfully, like tomatoes, there is a renaissance of ‘old fashioned’ full flavour fruits including peaches more available nowadays. They cost more, but are worth it. Keep these ones to eat fresh and use the inferior ones for poaching.
- Dried peaches are a concentrated source of beta-carotene, iron and fibre. Although the colour may be darker, buy the sun-dried variety rather than sulphur treated. Some asthmatics and eczema sufferers may be allergic to sulphur.
- Never buy peaches green, they have been picked too early and will not ripen. Keep peaches in the refrigerator, but make sure you give them time to return to room temperature to enjoy the full flavour and aroma. Don’t store on top of one another, they’ll bruise.
- Canned peaches are better than no peaches. Although canned fruits are convenient and they retain flavour, most vitamins and fibre the problem is the amount of processed sugar added for preservation and taste.