Life's a Peach
It’s National Peach Month, so of course the soundtrack for this newsletter is Peaches by The Presidents of the United States of America.
We’re going to debunk “peaches come from a can,” so turn up the tune, read on to gain new a-peach-iation for the fruit, and share your juicy peach pics on Facebook!
The Current Pickle
Peaches are the Goldilocks of the produce world. They prefer temperatures to be juuuuust right. And in the South this past winter, the weather was too hot, then too cold, which means this summer has way fewer Southern peaches. And last summer, New England had way fewer peaches because of an early-spring frost known as the Valentine’s Day Massacre. Jeesh!
There’s hope for you peach lovers out there. California grows the vast majority of the peaches in the U.S. By a lot. Most of those go into cans or the freezer, which can (no pun intended) have the same health benefits as fresh (more info on that ⬇️ ).
Peaches are almost synonymous with the South, whose peach past was built as a post-Civil War act of white supremacy. Georgia and South Carolina grow some peachy-keen varieties (like Sun Prince, Georgia Belle, and Big Red) that are best enjoyed fresh, over a kitchen sink in the heat of the summer. Or in a bullpen. (Is there a sink in there? 😂 )
Over 300 varieties of peaches grow in the U.S. You’re probs used to thinking about white vs. yellow when you buy, but pit/flesh attachment is also a defining characteristic of peaches:
- freestone: most people prefer fresh since the pit comes away easily. It has higher moisture content and bruises less easily, which also makes it visually more appealing.
- clingstone: the flesh is a bit firmer and clings to the pit, which makes it harder to eat fresh and maneuver around the pit. It has a lower moisture content and it bruises more easily, so it’s typically used in canned and frozen varieties. Most of the CA peaches that are grown are clingstone!
- semi-cling or semi-free: like it sounds, most of the pits of these peaches might come away from the flesh. It’s a lie.
Unfortunately, you can’t tell which you’re buying fresh unless the farmer or grocer labels it. Clingstones ripen first, so if you’re buying peaches at the beginning of your growing season (find out what’s growing and when with Sustainable Table’s brand new Seasonal Food Guide!) you’re likely going to get a clingy one!
As we mentioned in last week's Almond Edition, almonds and peaches are part of the same botanical family—check out that pit:nut similarity!
Another variety of peach? The nectarine.
Yup, a nectarine is genetically the same as a peach, but without the fuzz gene. Sometimes pubescent peaches (actual scientific term for peaches with fuzz) and nectarines can actually grow on the same tree!
But fuzz doesn’t sell, which is why your farmer’s market peach may feel different from your grocery store peach. Your peach gets a buzz cut between the farm and the produce section!
Regardless if you’re pro-fuzz or not, peaches have some incredible health powers:
- Eating two servings a week (canned or frozen or fresh) is linked to a decrease in incidents of breast cancer
- They’re a good source of antioxidants (more cancer-fighting power!)
- They are rich in beta-carotene, which helps prevent the retina against age-related macular degeneration
What’s the Dillio with Picking a Peach?
If you’re on the fence about fuzz, or you’re living in the South and coming up empty-handed with fresh peaches this summer, you can’t go wrong if you pick canned or frozen. In fact, canned varieties can actually be MORE nutritious than their fresh counterparts!
But if picking a peach gives you anxiety because of potential mealy-ness, unripeness, or finding a talking spider or earthworm like James, take a deep breath. Literally: the smell of your fresh peach is one sign of what’s inside! Follow these three easy steps to pick the best peach:
- Smell: It should give off a sweet aroma when it’s ready.
- Look: The background color of the peach around the stem should be orangeish-gold, not light yellow. Ignore that red blush, it’s meaningless.
- Touch: Don’t squeeze too hard, as peaches bruise easily. It should have a slight give when it’s ready.
If your peaches aren’t quite ready, do NOT put them in the fridge. Keep them at room temperature ALWAYS. Peaches continue to ripen after harvest, but if they get too cold they will start to get dry and mealy. If you buy a peach that’s mealy, chances are your farmer or grocer kept it in the fridge. 🙁
And if you want to quicken the ripening process, use the paper bag method: put your peach in a paper bag with a banana or apple for a few hours (longer if they are not smelling delicious yet). Or you could put on the white gloves and take a more delicate, time-consuming approach.
(Not to be confused with the Chinese method of protecting peaches from pesticides—they actually put paper bags around peaches while they’re still on the tree!)
The Hot Pickle
Peaches and pop culture are having a hot moment right now. Whether because of Selena Gomez’ “Fetish”, Apple re-introducing the peach butt emoji, mommys in Japan turning their babies’ butts into fresh peaches, their political power, or the incredible one-handed peach peeling that baffled the internet earlier this month, the peach obsession is palpable. 🍑
So get on board. Peaches are versatile! We’ve got a few options for you:
- Go juicy: peaches are perf for juices and smoothies
- Go cobbler: you’re unlikely to win at largest cobbler, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying. Thanks to our friends at Savory Kitchen for the blackberry-peach cobbler recipe
- Go savory: Peaches become a full meal when combined with pork tenderloin
- Go boozy: Mix up some peach sangria or a classic Bellini
- Go grill: Wrap them in bacon and grill like our girl over at Foodiecrush
- Go cold: Dairy-free 4-ingredient sorbet is perfect for late-summer nights
- Go no food waste: turn those pits into glazes and syrups and jellies
- Go frozen: Pioneer Woman’s peach dumplings are easy and fun to make with kids
Bacon Wrapped Grilled Peaches with Balsamic Glaze by Foodiecrush—spoiler alert: eat these while prepping for next week's Pickle: bacon!