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Eat

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Peaches

Wednesday, 20 October 2010 | Tags: , , , ,

Nothing beats a sweet, ripe Georgia peach picked and eaten straight off the tree. We took a trip to Savannah, Georgia for a cookbook test, and visited nearby Pearson Farm to taste the real thing. Here's what we learned about these luscious fruits.

The Basics

  • With over 40 varieties of peaches grown in Georgia, about a dozen grown in British Columbia’s Okanagan region and other areas of Canada, there are plenty of peaches to go choose from. If you can’t buy fresh peaches in season (preferable), frozen or canned varieties are available.

    • Peaches that are frozen within 12 hours of picking are optimal for

    • There are two main types of peaches: white flesh and yellow flesh.

      • White flesh peaches are very sweet with low acidity, and tend to have a smoother texture than yellow flesh peaches. They also ripen faster and are edible when still firm.

      • Yellow-flesh peaches tend to have more of an acid tang than white flesh peaches, and are best eaten when softer. Most peaches grown in the US are yellow fleshed.

    • Peaches are also categorized by the type of pit: clingstone, freestone, and semi-freestone.

      • In clingstone peaches, the flesh sticks to the pit. They ripen May through August, and are great for jams, jellies, canning and pickling.

      • In freestone peaches, the flesh falls away easily from the pit. These peaches are good for eating, freezing, and baking recipes, and are harvested May through October. The Belle of Georgia is a well-known, white flesh freestone from Georgia.

      • Semi-freestone peaches are a newer hybrid of the above two. They are good for both eating fresh, or canning.

    • Peaches are ripe for eating when they are fragrant and have skin that yields easily to some pressure – this is when the flesh is juicy and sweet. If the skin yields too much to very little pressure, the peach is probably overly ripe.

    • Look for a well-defined crease that runs from the stem to the point.

    • Because fresh peaches are highly perishable, don’t buy more than you plan to use, even if unripe, because they spoil easily.

    • Sweetness does not increase after picking, so ripe-picked fruit is always the tastiest. Avoid peaches with greenish colouring. They were probably picked too early and won’t be sweet.

    • When ripe, peaches should be stored in the crisper bin of your refrigerator and will keep up to five days. Don’t refrigerate a firm peach or it won’t ripen. Place it on the counter for a day or two to help it ripen.

    • The flesh of peaches discolours quickly when exposed to the air. Sprinkle with lemon or lime juice to counteract browning, otherwise eat or cook immediately.

Health Benefits

  • Peaches are virtually fat free. A medium-sized peach contains less than one gram of fat and about 40 calories.

  • They are also naturally sodium- and cholesterol-free.

  • Peaches are rich in vitamin A, which helps you see in dim light, and are considered a good source of fibre. Remember to eat the skin!

Cooking/Canning/Freezing

  • Pick slightly under ripe peaches if you’re lucky enough to have your own tree or visit an orchard.

  • Can and dry firm-ripe peaches.

  • Eat or freeze fully-ripe peaches

  • Make sweet spreads from very ripe peaches without any sign of mold.

  • Cook/bake a variety of peaches with high to very high firmness.

  • For jams, jellies, and preserves, choose firmer, late season peaches, which tend to have higher sugar and pectin levels.

  • For freezing, freestone peaches are optimal. Freeze them within 12 hours of picking, if possible. Prepare 5-6 cups of peaches at a time and then freeze them in small batches to avoid the flesh turning brown. Add an ascorbic acid mixture (available at the grocery store) and follow the instructions on the package. Remember to label and date them.

  • Cooking conversions: 1 lb of peaches = 3 medium peaches = 2 cups sliced peaches = 1/2 cup peach purée.

A big thank you to Pearson Peach Farm near Savannah, Georgia for allowing us to visit with our TV crew and pick the freshest, most delicious peaches (and peach ice cream) we’ve ever had!

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