From the fuzzy peel to the stone pit, there is so much to love about a juicy peach. Ripe and ready in late spring and all through summer, peach season is in full swing during the warm weather months. After peach picking at a local orchard, I brought home a hefty bounty of fruit. I decided to dig deeper and learn about the anatomy of a juicy peach, explore different peach characteristics, and discuss how to prepare them. There is so much to know and celebrate about this beloved warm-weathered treat!
Mini Guide: Peaches
This mini guide rounds up all the important peachy details so you can hit the ground running this peach season. Use it to fall in love with peaches again and find new ways to pick and prepare this fuzzy stone fruit.
Did you Know?
- There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of different peach varieties in the world.
- Nectarines are a result of breeding two different peach varieties.
- The Sun Crest peach is described as buttery in texture and is the sweetest, most desired peach. Unfortunately, this type of peach is often unavailable, so if you find it, enjoy it immediately!
- The purpose of fuzz on a peach skin is to protect the peach from bruising.
- California is the world's largest producer of peaches.
How do you Know if a Peach is Ripe?
A peach is ripe when the skin is soft when you gently press down and the peach is fragrant. The color of a peach does not change the more ripe it becomes, so at the store or farmers market select a vibrant peach of any red/yellow/orange color.
Freestones vs Clingstones:
Freestone peach are characterized by a skin and pit that are easily removed. They are peach is great eaten fresh. Freestone peaches are also great for baking when you want the pit to be easily removed. Clingstone peaches have a skin and pit that are not easily removed. The pit of a clingstone is embedded into the peach making it difficult to take out. Clingstone peaches are best used when canning or preserving because it better maintains its shape when cooking.
A hint to remember the two - the pit of a peach is called a stone, so a freestone has a pit that is easily removed, while the clingstone has a pit strongly attached to the inside of the peach.
Tip for removing a clingstone pit - Use an apple corer! On a cutting board, push the apple corer through the top of the peach (stem through the center of the corer circle) and the bottom of the peach (peach tail/bottom through the center of the corer circle). The corer isn't wide enough to go completely around the peach pit, so you will have to use your thumbs and push the cored center through center of the peach. See my picture below for a better visual.
3 Great Ways to Cook Peaches:
Cooked peaches are a must if you have never tried them before. When heated, peaches become more sweet and flavorful, and can be used in a variety of dishes. Prepare the peach by removing the pit (and peel if desired), then the peach can be sautéd, grilled, or baked.
- Sauté: Cut your peaches into uniform pieces, and cook until soft in a sauté pan. For a sweet peach dish, cook your peaches with butter and brown sugar for a sweet sauce. Add a liquor to the pan while cooking for an impressive flambé (be careful around the open flame!). Once the peaches are soft they are ready to eat. You can fill crepes with the peach recipe, serve with vanilla ice cream, or top over pancakes. For a savory peach dish, sauté peaches with bacon or butter, shallots, and garlic. Savory peach dishes pair perfect when served alongside pork or make a great savory pizza topping. Savory peach dishes are most commonly found in Indian and Asian cuisines.
- Grilled: One of my favorite ways to cook peaches! Halve a peach and brush the cut center with butter, canola, or coconut oil. On a hot ridged grill pan or outdoor grill, cook the peaches cut side down and let sear for 3 minutes or until grill makes appear. Using tongs turn each piece, still cut side down, a quarter of a turn and sear for 3 more minutes. Turning the peaches a quarter turn will give your peach beautiful checkered grill marks. Enjoy grilled peaches on their own or with vanilla ice cream.
- Baked: You typically bake peaches for desserts or pastries. You can bake the peaches either in slices or halves. If you want to bake a peach whole, choose a clingstone peach variety and remove the pit with an apple corer. The skin of the clingstone peach gives it the best structure when baking. Baked peaches are great for cobblers, cooked in puff pastry, or topped with spiced mascarpone (find my recipe here).
Cooking with the Peach Pit
A raw peach pit on its own can't be eaten because of a bitter compound that causes stomach aches. However, when the pit is cooked, it is perfectly safe to incorporate into a dish and adds an almond/nutty flavor. The most common way to cook with peach pits is by adding them to the cooking water while making a jam. The boiled pits aren't meant to be directly eaten.
Notable Nutrition Facts
Medium Peach - Calories: 59, Fiber: 2g, Vitamin A: 10%, Vitamin C: 17%
Peaches are a great source of niacin, which helps to stabilize your genes and prevent cancer. Peaches are also full of antioxidants in the form of beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which protect your eyes from age-related degeneration. Lutein and zeaxanthin actually increase when they are heated, so cooking and canning peaches bring out more of their eye-protecting benefits. Nutrition tip: keep the skin on! The peach skin is where some of the fiber and vitamins live.
I hope you are now able to look at peaches differently and use them in new ways. Peaches are absolutely delicious eaten right out of your hand but it's fun to find new ways to celebrate familiar and seasonal ingredients. How are you celebrating peach season?