THE READER
August 2004

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Produce News
Peaches & Nectarines
Joe Disch
Produce Staff


Whether eaten in a pie or cobbler, over ice cream, with breakfast cereal, in a smoothie, or just out of hand with the juice running down your face, it’s time to eat peaches and nectarines.


Peaches and Nectarines 101
Peaches and nectarines, along with plums, apricots, and cherries are all members of the Prunus genus, within the rose family. They are drupes, or “stone fruits,” because they have a large, hard seed in a fleshy outer fruit. Peaches are thought to have originated in China, first brought to North America by the Spanish in the early 1500s. There are two types of peaches, Freestone and Clingstone. Freestones are usually eaten fresh, and have a pit that is very easy to remove. Clingstones, on the other hand, “cling” tightly to the pit and so are canned, frozen, etc. The flesh can be either yellow or white. Nectarines can be used just like peaches in most cases. The primary genetic difference is the lack of fuzz on a nectarine’s skin. Often nectarines are smaller than peaches, have more red color on the skin, and a stronger aroma.


Selecting and Ripening

When shopping for peaches, consider when you will eat them and don’t buy too far ahead. If you’ll get to them within a couple days, look for peaches that are soft when light pressure is applied and have a slightly sweet aroma. If you’re buying for later in the week, peaches that are firm to the touch will ripen within three to four days. Either way, select smooth, unblemished fruit with no greenish color. Color varies by variety, but green indicates immaturity. Peaches picked when too green may shrivel or fail to develop good flavor. Otherwise, peaches and nectarines will continue to ripen at room temperature. You can speed it up by placing them in a paper bag, especially someplace warm like on top of the refrigerator. Put them in the refrigerator to slow them down once ripe. Do not refrigerate peaches before they are ripe!


Processing Tips
To skin peaches for cooking, cut an X on the blossom end with a sharp knife. Place in a pot of boiling water for one minute, and cool in ice water for another minute. Then remove the skin with your fingertips or a paring knife. Peeled peaches will quickly turn brown, so coat them with lemon, lime, or orange juice to maintain their color.


Nutrition
Fresh peaches provide several antioxidant vitamins. Your body converts the beta carotene into vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E. Peaches and nectarines also provide potassium and fiber. Some sources say nectarines are a little more nutritious than peaches, but I don’t think you’ll go wrong with either one! Peach salsa anyone? Grilled peaches? Peach wine? Order a case for canning or freezing, and enjoy peaches all year! Or maybe make some jam. All we are saying... is give peach a chance.