The start of peach season often signals the impending close of summer. Instead of rue the coming end of hot and sunny days, celebrate August - National Peach Month - with some delectable recipes that feature the tender-fleshed orange fruit or just simply bite into a fresh juicy peach.
Origins of the peach
Peaches are known to have originated in China, dating as far back as 1000 BC. Peaches traveled around the world via the silk route and eventually ended up in the Americas, brought by Spanish and French explorers. Columbus brought peach trees on his second and third voyages to America to plant and cultivate. China is the largest producer of peaches in the world. But, California and Georgia, the peach state, account for more than 75 percent of the peaches we eat in the United States today.
Varieties of peaches
There are hundreds of varieties of peaches grown today (the only wild version grows in China). Each type of peach is classified in one of three categories: clingstone, freestone or semi-freestone. The types are based on the ease or difficulty in removing the pit (stone) from the flesh — the pits of freestones release easily while the pits of clingstones are tougher to remove. The most common type of peach is the freestone, which is the easiest to eat fresh. Clingstones are perfect for desserts because they have a sweeter flesh and are juicier. Semi-freestone, which is a newly cultivated type, is good for both fresh eating or canning.
Selecting and storing peaches
Selecting: Peak season for peaches is July through August. When choosing a peach, examine the area around the stem, which indicates ripeness. The stem area should be wide and open versus narrow and closed. Peaches that have the warmest hues — cream, yellow or orange — will be the sweetest. Avoid peaches with any green on the skin. When you smell the skin of the peach, if it exudes a peachy aroma, it is likely ripe and ready to eat. Storing: For the longest shelf-life, don't wash your peaches when you bring them home from the market — wash them right before you will use them. Fresh peaches can be stored at room temperature for up to three or four days. Refrigerating your peaches will lengthen their life, but only by a day or two. To refrigerate, put them in a plastic bag and eat them in two days. Allow them to come to room temperature to heighten their distinctive flavor.
Makes 4 to 6 servings Ingredients:
2 cups diced peeled peaches
1 cup diced tomato
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
2 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 medium lime)
1 to 2 teaspoons finely minced chile
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
Dash garlic powder
1 tablespoon orange or pineapple juice
Dash freshly ground black pepper
Sugar or honey to taste Directions:
Combine all ingredients together. Let sit at least 45 minutes or chill for a few hours to let flavors develop. Serve over grilled pork or fish.
Peach Pecan Muffins
Makes 12 muffins Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter melted
1/4 cup milk
2 medium peaches peeled, diced Topping:
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup brown sugar packed
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons melted butter Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease and flour a 12-muffin tin or line tin with paper cups. 2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together butter, milk and egg in a separate bowl. Gradually stir egg mixture into flour mixture just until moist. Gently mix in peaches. Spoon into muffin tin. 3. Combine topping ingredients together until crumbly. Sprinkle topping on unbaked muffins. Bake muffins 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool on a rack.
Makes 2 servings Ingredients:
2 to 3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 ripe, firm peaches, ripe but not soft, pitted, sliced
Dark rum to taste Directions:
1. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add brown sugar, stirring to dissolve. Stir in peaches and cook about 1 minute, or until warmed. Flip peaches and cook about 30 seconds. 2. Stir in rum. Very carefully, light a very long match and pass over pan. Pan will flame up. Let flame die down and stir sauce to thicken. Spoon mixture over ice cream.
Makes about 6 servings Ingredients:
2/3 cup white peach puree (yellow peaches can be used)
1 1/2 tablespoon raspberry puree
1 bottle chilled Italian sparkling wine such as Prosecco or Asti Spumante Brut Directions:
For each serving, spoon 1 1/2 tablespoons peach puree in the bottom of a champagne flute. Add in 2 to 3 drops of raspberry puree. Top with sparkling wine. Garnish with a peach slice if desired. Note: To make peach puree, peel and pit peaches then puree in a blender or food processor. To make raspberry puree, place fresh or frozen (thawed) raspberries in a blender or food processor and puree. Strain out seeds if desired. Want more peachy keen dishes? Try these: