The Peach: A clas­sic sign of sum­mer

The Saline Courier Weekend - - COMICS - KRIS BOULTON

Ah, the peach; a clas­sic sign of sum­mer, a sta­ple in warmweathe­r recipes, and an­tic­i­pated at farm­ers’ mar­kets and stands across the coun­try from June through Au­gust. We love this sweet, juicy fruit, but how much do we re­ally know about its his­tory, nu­tri­tional value, or even how to cook with it?

Cul­ti­va­tion of peaches be­gan in China as early as

2000 B.C. By 300 B.C. Greeks and Per­sians were en­joy­ing peaches.

In the first cen­tury A.D.,

Ro­mans be­gan cul­ti­vat­ing peaches.

From Italy, the cul­ti­va­tion of peaches spread through­out Europe and to the Amer­i­cas, where the early set­tlers planted them all along the east­ern coast. By the mid1700s, peaches were so plen­ti­ful in the United States that botanists thought of them as na­tive fruits.

One large peach has only 68 calo­ries, 17 grams of car­bo­hy­drates, 3 di­etary fiber and 2 grams pro­tein. They are fat free, choles­terol free, sodium free, a good source of vi­ta­mins A and C.

Fresh peaches should be avail­able in our area un­til Au­gust. You’ll find the tasti­est fruits at lo­cal farm­ers mar­kets, road­side stands and u-pick farms, where they are likely picked the day be­fore be­ing brought to the mar­ket or stand. Those pur­chased at su­per­mar­kets may not be as tasty, due to the fact that they are of­ten picked be­fore they are fully ripened and shipped to the store.

If you want to make it ripen more quickly place the fruit in a sin­gle layer in a large pa­per bag. Fold the top down and check it ev­ery day to see if it is ripe. Peaches should not be re­frig­er­ated be­fore ripe be­cause this could cause them to lose fla­vor and have a mealy tex­ture.

There are two ba­sic types of peaches, cling­stone and free­stone. With cling­stone peaches, the flesh “clings” to the “stone” of the peach, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to sep­a­rate, and thus more suitable for pro­cess­ing and pre­serv­ing into jams, jel­lies and pre­serves. This va­ri­ety re­tains its fla­vor and soft tex­ture dur­ing pro­cess­ing.

The pit of free­stone peaches “freely” sep­a­rates from the flesh, mak­ing it ideal for fresh con­sump­tion. Free­stone peaches are gen­er­ally larger than cling­stones with a firmer, less juicy tex­ture. While most com­monly eaten fresh, these peaches may also be frozen and dried.

Once you have cho­sen the type of peach, look for a yel­low or creamy color. The amount of rosy “blush” on the sur­face is char­ac­ter­is­tic of the va­ri­ety, not ripeness. Re­mem­ber that peaches bruise eas­ily, so han­dle them care­fully.

To test them for ripeness, press the fruit gen­tly with your fin­ger. The fruit should feel firm, but have a lit­tle give. Most will have a sweet fra­grance. Avoid peaches that are too soft, un­less you plan to use them im­me­di­ately. These are of­ten over­ripe and will spoil quickly.

Fresh peaches make great desserts, and quick breads. In­stead of peel­ing, re­move the skin by dip­ping the peach in boil­ing wa­ter for 20 to 30 sec­onds. Then im­me­di­ately dip into ice cold wa­ter and the skin will slip right off. Riper peaches need less scald­ing time to loosen the peels.

Re­mem­ber peeled peaches brown rapidly when ex­posed to air. To pre­vent this, soak halves or slices for 5 min­utes in 1 quart of wa­ter with 3 ta­ble­spoons lemon juice and 2 crushed 500-mil­ligram vi­ta­min C tablets.

Peaches are very ver­sa­tile and can be tossed in brown sugar and added to waf­fles and pan­cakes; add slices to ce­re­als, both hot and cold; put them in sal­ads or smooth­ies, or puree them and add to home­made ice cream.

For more in­for­ma­tion on peaches, in­clud­ing recipes, con­tact me at the Uni­ver­sity of Arkansas Di­vi­sion of Agri­cul­ture, Sa­line County Ex­ten­sion in Ben­ton, e-mail kboul­ton@uaex.edu or call 501-303-5672. You can also get great tips on Face­book at UAEX Sa­line County Fam­ily & Con­sumer Sci­ence or uaex. edu..

This Peach Pound Cake recipe is the same one for Blue­berry Pound Cake, I just changed the fruit. It is al­ways a fa­vorite and the sug­ared pan gives it a won­der­ful crust.

Peach Pound Cake

1 cup but­ter, soft­ened

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 tea­spoon vanilla

1 tea­spoon bak­ing pow­der One half tea­spoon salt

3 cups flour (di­vided)*

2 cups (ap­prox­i­mately 1 pound) fresh peaches, pit­ted and chopped

*2 cups of flour in bat­ter, use 1 cup to dredge peaches

Cream but­ter and sugar un­til light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla. Mix in bak­ing pow­der, salt and 2 cups of flour. Fold in peaches that have been dredged in 1 cup flour. Pour into 10-inch tube pan which has been but­tered and sprin­kled with sugar. Bake at 325 de­grees F for 60 to 70 min­utes. Al­low to cool in pan for 10-15 min­utes be­fore in­vert­ing onto wire rack to serve com­pletely. This cake is great served alone or can be served with a dol­lop of whip­ping cream. Serves 10-12.

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