Peach
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The Chinese believe the Peach, (Prunus Persica), to be the most vital of fruit trees and guard peach blossoms as sacred in their culture. The Chinese also revere the Peach as a symbol of longevity. In Asia, the wood of the Peach tree was even used to fight off evil spirits. In fact, most historians believe that peaches originated in China, not Persia, which may be suggested by botanical name: Persica.

Part of the Rose family’s genus “Prunus,” (along with Plums, Cherries, Apricots and Almonds), Peaches are a “Drupe” fruit known for being ripe and juicy with a fuzzy exterior and pitted interior.  

Peaches are divided into two main categories: Clingstone peaches that have a “clinging” pit that adheres to the flesh of the fruit and Freestone peaches that have a pit that is easily separated from the flesh.

Here is a kicker, Peaches and Nectarines are classified as the same species even though they are sold as different fruit. The reason they are named differently at retail is that each has a distinctively different internal and external texture and flavor. The main difference between a Peach and a Nectarine is that Peaches are fuzzy while Nectarines tend to have better nutrition (twice the Vitamin A, a bit more Vitamin C and more Potassium), are smaller and more fragrant. At the end of the day though, Nectarines can be substituted for Peaches in virtually any recipe.

The outer layer of the Peach fruit is called the exocarp or skin. The skin is chock-full of antioxidants. The commonly eaten part of the peach is the mesocarp or the flesh. Inside the fruit is a pit or endocarp. This is where the term "stone" fruits originated. Peach pits have been used for carvings and jewelry.

Season

Peaches are available April to mid-October, with a peak season in June through August. Cooler climates will have their crops come in later than warmer areas.

Peaches from Chile begin arriving in November, peaking in January and February with their season ending by April.

Availability

Peaches are available all year long.

Cultivation

Peach trees are annuals that grow best in higher altitudes as they have a chilling requirement (a period of time of cold weather required for their flowers to bloom) that is best reached in cooler environments.

Peach trees are planted in early wintertime and they need full sun exposure for maximum growth potential. Peach trees thrive on nitrogen so they need lots of fertilizer otherwise they can show signs of stunted growth or even turn yellow in color. They need to be watered regularly and need more water supply right before they are ready to be picked.

Production

The United States, with more than 149,000 acres of Peach trees produces about 20% of the world’s supply. Peaches are the state fruit of Georgia, and South Carolina and the Peach blossom is the state flower of Delaware. California, Georgia and South Carolina grow the most Peaches in the U.S.

The US production of Peaches has decreased in recent years for many reasons. First, it’s much less expensive to import peaches from other nations versus growing them domestically. The domestic production costs have risen due to a rise in labor, energy, chemicals, fertilizer and equipment costs.

In the mid 2000s many consumers expressed concern with the flavor and texture of the US Peach supply as during production Peaches were bruised or frozen causing many quality issues. With the resurgence and interest in locally grown produce and farmer’s markets in the US however, there is a unique opportunity to encourage education and growth of this fruit.

Outside of the U.S., Italy, Greece, Spain and France are also significant Peach growers.

Varieties

There are over 300 varieties of peaches grown across the world, however the most common ways of differentiating them lies with the “clingstone” or “freestone” designations and whether they have yellow or white flesh.

Most Clingstone Peaches are used in Canning as they are softer, sweeter and juicier than Freestone Peaches. They are excellent when used for baking. It’s hard to find Clingstone Peaches at the grocery store and your best bet is to seek them out at a local Farmers’ Market or make friends with a farmer who grows them near you.

Purchasing

Here is the thing about Peaches, they (like Apples, Pears, Avocados and Tomatoes) will ripen after they have been picked and not just decay. Purchasing Peaches should be about picking good fruit but should also include some thought about when and how you plan to use them because you can buy Peaches in various stages of ripeness safe in the knowledge that you can finish ripening them at home.

This comes in handy both because if you accidentally end up with unripened peaches, they can be saved, and because you can purposefully choose peaches at different levels of ripeness with the plan of ripening the harder ones to eat later. There are three ways, each with its own speed, to ripen peaches once you get them home.

When selecting the perfect Peach in the grocery store or at your local farmer’s market, look for a Peach that is has a rich background color such as golden yellow for yellow peaches and creamy yellow for white peaches then smell them. Good Peaches will smell like you hope they will taste. Also a good peach will feel heavy for its size and have a well-defined crease on the fruit and have a slight give to the fruit if the skin is pressed with your finger. Be gentle as Peaches do bruise very easily. Depending on your ultimate purpose (immediate use, baking or eventual use) the Peach be neither rock hard nor too mushy.

If the give of the Peach feels like a Tennis Ball, the Peach is not ready to eat but should ripen within the week. These Peaches are good for eventual use.

If there is some real “give” in the Peach, it is good to go but can also benefit from a day or two of counter-storage. These Peaches with some give but not real softness can be eaten and are good for baking since they hold their shape well.

If there is some bruising when you squeeze gently, the Peach is ready to eat immediately.

If the Peach is super soft, it is already bruised and a little bit overripe. It should be juicy and tasty, albeit messy, eating.

Consider buying Peaches in Season at various stages of ripeness. Softer Peaches can be used immediately while firmer Peaches can be ripened and make for perfect eating in a few days.

Don’t be fooled by the attractive “red blush” on some varieties. That red is not a sign of taste or ripeness. It is just an indication of where the sun shone on the fruit in question. Pass on Peaches that are: too soft or bruised, have scratches or flat areas, have a green tinge to their color, even around the stem, (they are not fully mature and won’t ripen right), and those with shriveled skin (they are old and dehydrated).  

If, despite your best efforts, you end up with a mealy Peach, it usually means poor harvesting or handling (picked very green or very ripe and then chilled and tempered again). We’d avoid that producer in the future.

Storage

Remember that Peaches (like Apples, Pears, Avocados and Tomatoes), will ripen after they have been picked (avoid immature, green Peaches which won’t ripen well). The ripeness of the Peaches that you have purchased should influence your Storage decisions.

Unripe Peaches can be stored on the counter or loosely out in a bowl out of direct sunlight (too much summer sun might begin baking them) until they ripen and become ready to eat. If you wish to hurry along the ripening, store the Peaches in a paper bag on the counter out of the sun. The bag will trap the Ethylene gas given off by the fruit and speed up the ripening process. If you are in a greater hurry, add a Banana to the bag to increase the amount of Ethylene.

Ripe, ready-to-eat Peaches can be left out on the counter (out of direct sun) sitting on their shoulders (not their bottoms) with some elbow room.  If they are crowded or stacked, that can work too just avoid putting too much physical pressure on the easily bruised Peaches.

Once they are ripe, or if you want to lengthen the ripening process, refrigerate. Cold slows down ripening without halting it completely. Take note of your refrigerated Peaches condition (daily if possible) because they can dry out in the refrigerator if left too long. Ripe Peaches should be good for about 5-6 days in the crisper drawer. Be sure to allow the Peaches to Temper (come to room temperature) before eating them to maximize their “peachy-ness.”

If you use caution when handling them to avoid bruising, and you know how they ripen, storing Peaches is a fairly easy process. Keep hard Peaches at room temperature until ripe. Once ripe, if not yet used, store the Peaches in the refrigerator.

If you have too many Peaches or just want to store them frozen for later use, freezing them is a good option. Peaches should be Peeled and Sliced for Frozen Storage. Scoring the bottoms, Blanching (40 seconds) and then using an Ice Bath (1 minute) to stop any Carry Over Cooking helps if you are peeling a lot of Peaches.

The best way to freeze the peeled and sliced Peaches is to “pre-freeze” the Peach wedges on a dish or baking sheet so they are frozen through (4 hours or so to overnight) before removing the Peaches to a freezer bag  (squeeze out as much air as possible) and labeling them for longer storage. They should last for 6 months or more in the freezer.

Peaches are a ripe, juicy and fuzzy treat that have been making fruit fans happy for decades. This plump and fresh fruit makes excellent pies and cobblers and almost nothing tastes better on a hot summer day than sticky and sweet peach juice running down your chin.

Culinary Uses

Though it is totally edible, most people are not huge fans of the fuzzy skin on the outside of a Peach. To go fuzz-free, simply rinse the Peach in cool water and dry it with a paper towel. Voila! The fuzz is gone.

However, when cooking a Peach, the skin becomes really tough. We recommend removing it. Simply, Blanch your Peach in hot water and then immediately put it into a cool Ice Bath to stop any Carry Over Cooking cold. This will make the skin super easy to peel.

The peach pit is not edible either, discard it and use the flesh only.

Peaches are most commonly used in Desserts like Pies, Cobblers, Melbas, Muffins, Breads or Tarts. Additionally you can make some pretty delicious Jams, Jellies, Ice Creams, Liquors and Brandies from Peach juice.

Another way to enjoy peaches is to pair slices with Ricotta Cheese or Vanilla bean ice cream. Both of these options cut the sweetness of the peaches, balancing it out and making for a simple and aesthetically pleasing dessert.

Peaches can be used in savory dishes as well, like baked Chicken or Pork and are often an ingredient in BBQ sauce.

Keep in mind that once exposed to the air, Peaches will Oxidize and darken rapidly. If cutting them well in advance of service, be sure to use a little squeeze of an Acid like Lemon, Lime, Orange or Pineapple Juice, for example, to keep them looking their best.

Portion Size

Allow 1-2 oz of Peach per person.

Pairings

Almonds, Hazelnuts, Pecans, Pistachios, Walnuts, Allspice, Anise, Basil, Bay Leaf, Cinnamon, Cloves, Lavender, Lemon Thyme, Mace, Mint, Nutmeg, Pepper, Saffron, Salt, Star Anise, Sugar, Tarragon, Thyme, Vanilla, Apples, Apricots, Blackberries, Berries, Coconut, Figs, Lemons, Limes, Nectarines, Oranges, Passion Fruit, Pineapple, Plums, Strawberries, Arugula, Peppers, Ginger, Onions, Butter, Buttermilk, Cheese, Cottage Cheese, Cream, Milk, Sour Cream, Yogurt, Crab, Fish, Lobster, Pork, Shrimp, Brandy, Champagne, Chocolate, Custards, Honey, Molasses, Oatmeal, Oils, Olive Oils, Rum, Vinegars, Soups, Sauces, Desserts

Substitutes

Apricots

Nutritional Value

Nutritional Value USDA
PEACHES,RAW
Amount Per 100g
Calories 39
%Daily Value*
 
0%
Total Fat 0g
0%
Saturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
0%
Cholesterol 0mg
0%
Sodium 0mg
4%
Potassium 190mg
3%
Total Carbohydrate 9g
4%
Dietary Fiber 1g
Sugars 8g
Protein 0g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Nutrition

Peaches are a very sweet and satisfying low-calorie snack option. They are filled with various vitamins and minerals essential to a healthy body. Peaches have a moderate level of Antioxidants, Vitamin C, Vitamin A and B-carotene.

Peaches are also rich in Potassium, Fluoride and Iron. These minerals promote strong bone health, blood cell formation and help regulate heart rate and blood pressure.

Additionally, the Antioxidants in peaches play a role in fighting the signs of aging and the prevention of various diseases.

It would be hard to eat “too many” peaches in one sitting due to their very low caloric value so go ahead, make some pie, can them or just eat them straight off the tree!

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

Yes

Low Calorie

Yes