By KATHY SMITH
Summer just wouldn’t be summer without Parker County fresh peaches. Now is the time to enjoy juicy peaches. Farmers’ markets, roadside stands and grocery stores are loaded with blushing, sweet, fragrant peaches. With the perfect combination of flavor and nutrition, peaches can be enjoyed in appetizers, desserts and everything in between.
Peaches were probably the first fruit crop domesticated in China about 4000 years ago. Peaches were moved to Persia (Iran) along silk trading routes. In fact, the epithet persica denotes Persia, which is where Europeans thought peaches originated. Greeks and especially Romans spread the peach throughout Europe and England starting in 200-400 BC. Peaches came to the new world with explorers of the 16th-17th centuries, with the Portuguese introducing it to South America and Spaniards to the northern Florida coast of North America. Native Americans and settlers distributed the peach across North America into southern Canada, and it is cultivated in two-thirds of the 50 states today.
One medium peach has about 40 calories and about 10 grams of carbohydrates. Peaches contain many important nutrients, including vitamin A in the form of beta carotene which has been linked to a reduced risk of some forms of cancer, and riboflavin which is good for the eyes. They are also a good source of fiber. And peaches are one of the lowest-calorie fruits with virtually no fat, sodium or cholesterol.
The best peaches to eat are the fresh. However, they are also delicious when they are frozen, canned and used in a variety of ways. Now is the time to add a slice of peach to a bowl of cereal to enhance the flavor and nutritional value.
Peaches do not get any sweeter once they are picked. They do get softer and juicer, but never sweeter. That is why it is important to avoid rock hard peaches that were picked when they were still green.
Look for peaches that show a background of color- yellow or creamy with a rosy blush on the cheeks. Avoid peaches with green undertones. That means they were picked too early. Peaches should be smooth, unwrinkled skin and no blemishes or bruises. Look out for peaches with tan circles, an early sign of decay.
Choose peaches that give slightly at the seam when pressed with your thumb, even though the rest of the peach is firm. Sniff the stem end of the peach. You should be able to smell the peachy fragrance.
Leave peaches at room temperature a day or two to soften. Then store ripe peaches in the refrigerator. They will keep for 3 to 5 days.
You may have noticed that peaches in the store are not fuzzy. There are no fuzzless varieties. Most people do not like fuzz, so commercial growers mechanically brush peaches after harvest to remove the fuzz. You will still find fuzzy peaches at farmers’ markets, orchards and roadside stands.
To skin peaches: cut an X on the blossom end with a sharp knife. Place them in a pot of boiling water for about a minute and cool them in ice water for about the same length of time. Then pull the skin off with your fingertips or use a paring knife. Peeled peaches will quickly turn brown, so coat them with lemon juice or orange juice to maintain the bright color.
Serves: Makes about 12 servings.
1½ cups ripe peaches, diced (4-6 depending on size)
1 cup tomato, diced (about 2 medium)
1 tablespoon jalapeño, finely minced (about ½)
¼ cup yellow pepper, small dice (substitute red or green pepper if you’d like)
¼ cup red onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
juice of 1 lime
¼ teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
salt and pepper to taste
for spicier version add more jalapeño or cayenne powder or other ground pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients together well. Serve right away, or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Kathy Smith is a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent for Parker County. Contact her at (817) 598-6168 or firstname.lastname@example.org.