Forget the calendar. I know that summer has arrived when I eat my first truly ripe and fragrant peach. There are hundreds of varieties of peaches. The cling peaches, which have a pit that needs surgical tools to remove, actually hit their stride in July. But the peaches most of us know and love, the ones we throw on the grill and turn into peach cobbler, are the freestone peaches. And August is the time to shine for these sweet gems.
Peaches come in a wide spectrum of colors. You can find them with skins that are pinkish white to reddish yellow and flesh in hues of blushing pink to deep gold. A bushel of peaches looks like a late summer sunset. I love it. While beautiful to look at, the best part of a peach is its flavor. Sweet and juicy, peaches are versatile enough to fit into any part of your meal. Add wedges to a green salad, pair them with a soft creamy cheese, brush with butter and grill for a powerful, slightly smoky side dish or eat, just as it is, for dessert.
When choosing peaches look for ones that give just slightly when you squeeze them. Peaches are easy bruisers, so be gentle. Peaches will last longer if you keep them in a plastic bag in your fridge, but the flavor pops more at room temperature, so I like to put them in a bowl on the kitchen table. If you decide to store them in the fridge, be sure to let them sit for 20-30 minutes on the counter before digging in.
Beware that the peach skin can become tough when you use the fruit in cobbler or compotes or jams. To remove it easily, drop the peach into boiling water for 30 seconds or so. Use tongs to turn them in the water a few times. Lift the peaches out of the boiling water and into an ice bath. The skin should slip right off the flesh with your fingers.
Peaches originated in China, where have been a symbol of long life for decades. As they’re a good source of vitamin C, potassium and vitamin A, it’s easy to understand why. But it’s important to buy organic peaches. The Environmental Working Group lists these fleshy favorites fourth on their list of the 12 most pesticide-treated fruits and veggies.
Ready to eat a peach? Try these gorgeous Caramelized Peaches with a scoop of ice cream.