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All About Peaches

All About Peaches

First, here’s a little song about peaches to put you in the mood.

Peaches, peaches everywhere! It’s that time of year where entire festivals are taking place in honor of these delicious, juicy fruit that can be used to make so many things. We love peaches, especially when they come with a day of peach picking with friends or family. What could be better? We gathered the basics that you’ll need to know for a day of picking, eating or baking with peaches plus some interesting tidbits that you probably never even knew. You’ll be a peach connoisseur before you know it.

Where Did They Come From?

Did you know that peaches were originally grown in China before they were taken to Europe and eventually brought to North America by a horticulturist by the name of George Minifie? Peaches can be found cited in ancient Chinese writings as far back as the 10th century BC. These fuzzy fruits were a favorite of kings and emperors and made their way to Europe where they were a prized and expensive treat. In the 19th century, peaches were brought to North America where they were grown commercially in the states of Maryland, Delaware, Georgia and Virginia. Today, peaches are grown in California, South Carolina and of course Georgia (who doesn't recognize the infamous Georgia peach).

Varieties

A peach is just a peach, or is it? There are hundreds of cultivars, or cultivated varieties, of peaches. This means that through plant propagation, a scientific method of cutting stems and using seeds and bulbs, peach growers can manipulate a plant to reproduce using desired characteristics. These cultivars are grouped into two categories which include freestones and clingstones. Freestones are peaches whose flesh separates easily from the pit and are best for canning because when cut lengthwise the pit falls right out, but it can also be eaten fresh like in a Peach Salsa. Clingstones, on the other hand, have flesh that “clings” to the pit and are the best for eating fresh and more difficult to can. People typically prefer eating freestone peaches and there is no real difference in taste between the two. When buying peaches there is no way to tell if a peach is a freestone or clingstone just by looking at it. Typically clingstone peaches are found earlier in the season and freestone peaches are found in the middle to the end of the season. If you are at a farm, roadside stand or farmer’s market it’s likely that the grower will know which variety they have so feel free to ask. They’ll probably even appreciate that you took time to expand your peach knowledge!

Peach Season

Peaches are typically grown during mid-May through September, but freshly picked limited quantities may also be found during early May and as late as early October (depending on which part of the country you live). Peaches usually are grown in areas with a high altitude which satisfies the peach trees’ need for chilling during the winter months. The flesh of peaches can range in color from white to deep yellow depending on the variety and the area where it is grown. The taste is the same whether you pick white or yellow peaches, but white peaches are typically less acidic which is helpful for people who are sensitive to acidic foods.

When it is time to go peach picking, look for peaches that have turned from green to a reddish blush from being exposed to the sun. The rest of the peach should be a yellowish color (but a small variety of peaches stay green even when ripe). Peaches are a fruit that continue to ripen after it is picked, unlike strawberries, so the firmness of the fruit will depend on how soon you are planning on eating it. As long as the coloring of the peach fits the description above, feel free to pick it. If the firmness of the flesh could be described as harder than medium firmness you should wait at least 3-5 days before eating it. When leaving a peach to ripen, store it at room temperature, not in the sun or in the refrigerator. A ready to eat peach with have a firmness that is medium- soft and have a very fragrant aroma.

Uses

Now that you know all about peaches and more than likely have a basket full, what are you going to do with them? More often than not, peaches are used for their sweetness in desserts. Some of the most popular include your traditional peach cobbler, peach crisp, pound cake and peach preserves. Some other ways to use your peaches are preparing a salsa or chutney, adding them to a salad or creating some refreshing peach sangria. You can also make peaches into a marinade for chicken or pork chops, like in our Sweet and Spicy Caribbean Chicken.

Recipes

Above we talked about some of the more common ways to use peaches, but there are always some new and out of the ordinary ways to use peaches for when you are feeling adventurous. We scoured the web to bring you some exotic peach dishes from a few of our favorite food bloggers and hope you enjoy them!

Almond Crisped Peaches from Smitten Kitchen
Bourbon Peach Milkshake from Ezra Pound Cake
Grilled Peach Salad with Toasted Pecans, Bleu Cheese and Honey Balsamic Syrup from Panini Happy
Peach Pistachio Galette from i am a food blog  
Honeysuckle Biscuits with Sea Salt Peach Butter from local milk blog
Pork Chops with Jalapeno Peach BBQ Sauce from Homesick Texan 

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