Peaches on Pottery
The peach is a member of the rose family. It was first cultivated in China and revered as a symbol of longevity. The image was placed on pottery and received as a gift with great esteem.
Travelers along caravan routes carried the peach seed to Persia before it was cultivated in Europe.
Varieties of Peaches
In the early 1600s Spanish explorers brought it to the New World and by the 1700s missionaries had established peaches in California.
Peaches are available almost all year. The season dictates the variety. Semi-freestones (Queencrest) are early season late April to June. In mid-June the market shifts to freestone (Elegant Lady) or clingstone. On the off seasons peaches are imported into the U.S. from Chile and Mexico. Fresh varieties are sold as freestone while clingstone is usually used for canning.
The fruit inside these peaches is either yellow or white. The white flesh is a "sub-acid" fruit its flavor is more sugary sweet. The more traditional color is yellow. It's more acidic, which does give it a bit more flavor. Half of the United States crop comes from the South and the other half from California. The United States also produces 25 percent of the total world market (THE PACKER 1999).
When selecting fresh peaches, look for ones that are soft to the touch, blemish free, and have a fragrant smell. Peaches that are mildly fragrant ripen into sweet and delicious flavors. Choose fruit that has a background color of yellow or cream and has a fresh looking appearance. Peaches may have some red "blush" depending on the variety, but this is not a sign of how the fruit will taste after it is ripened. At home peaches can be ripened at room temperature in a brown paper bag in 2 to 3 days. Peaches are highly perishable, so don't buy more than you plan to use. When selecting can peaches, choose those labeled "packed in it's own juice" and "no added sugar"; these are the healthier choices.
The best way to ripen stone fruit is to place the fruit in a paper bag, fold the top of the bag over loosely, and place the bag on the counter for one to three days. Never store hard fruit in the refrigerator, in plastic bags, or in direct sunlight.
Check the fruit daily. When it is ripe, it will be aromatic and will give slightly to gentle pressure. Once ripened, it can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week.
Wash peaches carefully in cool soapy water, then rinse well before eating or using. Unless a recipe calls for it, you never need to peel the fruits; in fact, many of the nutrients found in stone fruits are contained in the peel, and it's highly recommended that the peel be consumed along with the flesh. If used in cooking they peel really fast if blanched in boiling water for a minute then plunged into ice water to cool. In fruit salads or platters, sprinkle cut peaches with lemon juice to help them keep their great color.
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