Did you know that the peach is a member of the rose family? It was first cultivated in China and made its way to California by way of missionaries during the 1700’s. Today, half of the United States crop comes from California while the other half comes from the South. The United States also produces 25% of the total world market.
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 isn’t a sign of how the fruit will taste after it’s ripened. Peaches are highly perishable, so don’t buy more than you plan to use. When buying canned peaches, choose those labeled “packed in its own juice” and “no added sugar” since these are healthier choices.
Peaches can be ripened at room temperature in a brown paper bag in 2 to 3 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.
Unless a recipe calls for it, you never need to peel the fruit. 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.
Peaches and Greens Salad
6 cups torn mixed salad greens or baby spinach
2 fresh peaches, thinly sliced
2 cups sugar snap peas
1 cup fresh blueberries
¼ cup catalina dressing
¾ cup fat free Feta cheese
Combine first four ingredients. When ready to serve, top with dressing and cheese.