Week 24: Peaches
Peaches are one of the most delicious and popular fruits of summer. They were native to China, from where they spread to the rest of the world via the ancient silk route.
The peach plant is described as a small, deciduous tree that grows up to 25 to 30 feet tall. In general, each peach tree bears numerous, almost uniform sized fruits between May and September months. Depending upon the variety, its flesh is white to creamy-yellow with a centrally placed single seed (which is inedible) enclosed inside the hard shell.
Peaches are a great source of vitamin A (in the source of beta-carotene) and vitamin C. They are a good source of vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, niacin, folate and pantothenic acid. Peaches also provide a large amount of potassium. They also provide some fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese, iron, and calcium as well.
Antioxidants: One of the major antioxidants in peaches, chlorogenic acid, helps scavenge free radicals (compounds that your body acquires through exposure to pollutants, food, and the environment) to reduce the effects of aging and deter chronic diseases. This antioxidant may also help ward off cancer and reduce body inflammation. In addition, peaches contain vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), vitamin C and lutein which also serve as antioxidants.
Selection and Storage:
Look for fresh peaches featuring rich color and may still have a slight whitish "bloom" on their surface indicating freshness. Avoid ones with excessive softness, or with surface cuts and bruises. The aroma of a peach is the best indicator of ripeness. A ripe peach will feel firm, just beginning to yield to gentle pressure. Slightly hard but mature fruits can be kept at room temperature until they ripen. To hasten the ripening process, place them in a paper bag with a banana or apple since the ethylene gas that these fruits emit will help speed up the maturation process. Any ripe peaches can be refrigerated for a few days.
Preparation and serving tips:
As in apples, sliced peach fruit sections turn brown on exposure to air. If you have to serve them sliced, rinse slices in water added with a few drops of fresh lemon.
Pesticides: According to the Environmental Working Group's 2019 report "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides" conventionally grown peaches are among the top 12 fruits and vegetables on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found. Therefore, individuals wanting to avoid pesticide-associated health risks may want to avoid consumption of spinach unless it is grown organically.
Slow-roasted spiced peaches from Rebecca Katz is an absolute delight. Serve it warm or at room temperature over yogurt for breakfast or ice cream as a treat!