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Peaches! What's So Great About Them?

Peaches! What's So Great About Them?

Why Eat It: The third most popular fruit grown in the United States (right behind apples and oranges), sweet, juicy peaches supply some beta-carotene (especially the darker-fleshed varieties) and vitamin C. They also supply boron and a fair amount of fiber, about half of it soluble.
Varieties: For many years a Georgia variety, the tender, sweet Elberta, was the predominant peach. Peaches are now grown commercially in more than 30 states, with California the largest producer.
Dozens of new varieties have been developed since the Elberta's heyday; most are larger and also firmer to withstand cross-country shipping. Though some have white flesh, growers have emphasized the yellow-flesh varieties, with names such as Elegant Lady, June Lady, Flavorcrest, and Red Top.
Older varieties, such as Elberta, Hale, and Rio Oso Gem, which have a tender, "melting" texture, are much more likely to be found at either farmers' markets or roadside stands than in supermarkets.
Like plums, to which they are related, peaches are primarily classified as either freestone (the flesh slips easily off the pit) or clingstone. A few varieties fall in between and are referred to as semi-freestone. Most of the varieties that are sold fresh are freestone. They are softer and juicier than clingstone varieties, which are generally used for canned fruit.
Shopping: When buying locally grown peaches, you'll find softer, sweeter, more fragrant fruit than at the supermarket. Peaches do not get any sweeter after they have been picked, although the fruit will become softer and juicier as it matures.
Look for peaches with skins that show a background color of yellow or warm cream--the amount of pink or red "blush" on their cheeks depends on the variety and it is not a reliable indicator of ripeness. Undertones of green, however, indicate the peaches were picked too soon and will not be sweet. Look for plump, medium to large peaches with unwrinkled skins. Choose fruits that are mildly fragrant.
Avoid rock-hard peaches and choose those that yield slightly to pressure along the "seam," even if they may otherwise be fairly firm. Peaches at this stage of ripeness will soften if kept at room temperature for a few days.
For immediate eating pleasure, especially when buying locally grown peaches, choose soft, fragrant fruit. Avoid dark-colored, mushy, bruised peaches that are overripe and beginning to spoil. Tan circles or spots on the skin are early signs of decay.
Preparation: Serve peaches chilled or at room temperature; the sweet flavor and fragrance are more pronounced at room temperature. Wash peaches well before eating or cooking them. This is especially important if you buy peaches at a farmstand or pick your own because the peach fuzz can is unpleasant to eat and can be extremely irritating to your skin.
When eating a peach raw, there's no need to peel it, peaches that you intend to cook should be peeled first. To loosen the skin for easier peeling, drop peaches into a pot of boiling water; remove them after 30 seconds to one minute and immediately immerse in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Remove the peel, using your fingers or a table knife.
To halve a freestone peach, cut it along the seam right down to the stone and twist the halves apart. Lift out the stone with the tip of a small knife. Slice or quarter the flesh of a clingstone peach by making cuts into the fruit, then lifting each section off the stone.
Peeled or cut peaches will turn brown if exposed to air, so rub peeled fruit with lemon or orange juice or dip slices into the fruit juice.
Baking: Place peeled, halved, pitted peaches, cut-side up, in a baking pan; brush with lemon, orange, or other citrus juice to prevent browning and to add flavor. Sprinkle with brown sugar, if desired and bake in a 325F oven until hot, and tender when pierced with a knife. Cooking time: about 25 minutes.
Grilling/broiling: Place peeled, halved, pitted peaches on the grill or under the broiler; brush with lemon or orange juice and cook until heated through. Cooking time: six to eight minutes.
Poaching: Immerse peach halves, quarters, or slices in simmering fruit juice or wine and cook until tender. Cooking times: for slices, three minutes; for halves and quarters, three to seven minutes.
Nutrition Chart: Fresh Peaches/1 medium: Calories 42; Total fat (g) 0.1, Saturated fat (g) 0, Monounsaturated fat (g) 0, Polyunsaturated fat (g) 0, Dietary fiber (g) 2,
Protein (g) 1, Carbohydrate (g) 11, Cholesterol (mg) 0, Sodium (mg) 0

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