One of the classic summer fruits is the peach, with its warm orange colour and distinctive taste. In fact, August is known as National Peach Month in the US so strong is the association. So, to celebrate, here’s a look at the top things to do with peaches as well as a few key facts to help understand the fruit.
Peaches or nectarines?
Peaches originally came from ancient Persia (modern day Iran) where they were grown and soon spread across Europe. The peach tree Prunus persica is a member of the same family as the cherry, apricot, plum and almond – all of which are part of the rose family.
The other big question is a funny one – peaches and nectarines are technically the same fruit but are classed differently for commercial purposes. The reason for calling them different things is that peaches have a fuzzy skin while nectarines have a smooth skin. Additionally, nectarines have a sharper taste and are more likely to be affected by conditions such as brown rot and bacterial spot so peaches are a little tougher.
Or an apricot?
But when is a peach actually an apricot? While the two come from the same family, there are some clear differences. For instance, apricots are a lot less fuzzy than peaches while not being a smooth as a nectarine. It is in the taste area that the real difference is found – apricots are a lot tartier than peaches and also are better in dried form, which is why they are often used in different types of dishes such as tagine or with duck.
Health benefits of peaches
Now we have established who is who in this soft orange coloured fruit family, let’s get to know the peach a little better. One of the big questions with any food today is what health benefits that they offer in different formats – so what does peach bring to the table?
Peaches contain ten different vitamins including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin K. A large peach contains around 333mg of potassium that helps to keep blood pressure under control and also reduces the chance of kidney stones. The same large peach also offers around 17grams of carbohydrates, of which 3mg are fibre. This helps digestion, eases constipation and can also help lower cholesterol.
Peaches have naturally sweetness without too many calories so can help cure the urge for something sugary without being too unhealthy. A large peach around 2 ¾ inches in diameter contains around 68 calories.
Peaches are often sold in containers so you don’t tend to buy just the one. This can often mean you have more than you need but the good news is that there are a few ways to store peaches that mean you don’t end up wasting them.
The easiest option for storing the fruit is to freeze them. Freezing peaches should be done while they are not too mushy and all you need to do is to clean them, remove the skin if you want then cut them into halves or quarters. You can even put them into chunks if you prefer. Take two cups of water and the juice of half a lemon then bath the peaches in it. Place them on a sheet so they don’t touch and freeze them for around an hour or two. You can then lift them and place them in a container or bag.
Another option is canning peaches. This takes a bit more work but can be ideal if you have somewhere to store them and don’t want to fill your freezer up with fruit. You can see full instructions on how to do it here.
Things to do with peaches
Pies or cobblers are classics of the peach recipe world but there are lots of easier ways to get all the health benefits of the fruit without having to get the rolling pin into action. Here are a few ideas.
1. Grilled peaches
You can simply brush the peaches with a little pre-softened butter and grill them face down for 4-5 minutes. Turn them and cook for another few minutes until they are soft. You can serve them with ice cream or yoghurt while they also work with gamey meats like duck.
2. Poached peaches
Another classic is poaching peaches and this gives them the flavour that you add into the liquid so you can use anything you like. For a spicy option, use a little sugar syrup, cinnamon stick and star anise. Or for an alcoholic version, poach them in vanilla and Cava.
3. Fruit salad
There’s probably a million combinations you can make in the fruit salad department to include peach. One I saw used peaches, bananas, strawberries and seedless grapes. All were prepared into small pieces, mixed together in a bowl and popped in the fridge to cool down. You can always drizzle a little honey on it for added sweetness or serve with yoghurt.
Salsa is a bit like fruit salad only it tends to mix savoury ingredients with the fruit. A classic example with a little spicy kick comes from She Wears Many Hats and uses tomato, jalapeno chili, yellow pepper, red onion, chopped cilantro (or coriander in the UK), lime juice, chili powder and brown sugar. Everything is prepared and cut into small pieces then mixed together. You can also add some cayenne powder if you want it a little stronger.
Peach also works well in a number of drinks because it is naturally sweet. Obviously, it can go into smoothies but you can also make drinks such as peach lemonade and peach tea.
5. Peach lemonade
I found a great recipe for peach lemonade on Divas Can Cook where you just need six peaches, zest of three lemons and a cup and a half of sugar as well as a cup of fresh lemon juice and cold water. You heat the peach, zest and sugar in the water until the sugar dissolves then mash the peaches with a potato masher. Simmer until it thickens then leave to cool. Strain the mixture and get rid of the solids then add the lemon juice. Serve with sparkling water for the lemonade effect.
6. Simple peach smoothie
Like the fruit salad idea, there are plenty of ways you can mix peaches into a smoothie. But a simple one mixed one large peach with half a cup of peach flavoured yoghurt, half a cup of milk and six ice cubes. You could go with vanilla yoghurt if you wanted a little less full on peach flavour or could substitute the milk for almond or even coconut milk.
7. Peach iced tea
I haven’t entered the world of iced tea yet but I know a lot of people enjoy it and peach is a great flavour to work with the tea. This recipe uses a cup of sugar, the same of water and two ripe peaches along with 2-3 tablespoons of loose leaf black tea or 3-4 tea bags and around eight cups of water. This lets you make it as strong as you like from the tea perspective and make sure you save a little sliced peach to decorate!
From using peach schnapps to making sangria included peaches, there are quite a few good ‘adult’ uses for the fruit.
8. Peach sangria
Sangria is a mixture of fruit and sparkling wine or champagne and so is open to interpretation. This recipe uses three cups of sliced peaches, two cups of raspberries added to larger pitcher with 750ml Pinot Grigio wine, a cup of simple syrup and a cup of peach schnapps. This is left overnight in the fridge then when you come to serve, mix it half and half with champagne.
The Bellini is one of the top peach cocktails and was originally made with sparkling wine such as Prosecco but can also be made with champagne. It is a popular brunch drink because it is relatively gentle in terms of alcohol. The classic recipe called for 2 ounces of peach juice or puree to four ounces of sparkling wine. Put the juice in the champagne flute then top with the wine.
10. Sex on the Beach
Another peach flavoured classic cocktail, this one uses peach schnapps. Take 1.5 ounces of vodka, half an ounce of peach schnapps as well as 1.5 ounces of orange or pineapple juice and the same amount of cranberry juice. Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice then strain into a highball glass. You can add Chambord if you want an extra touch of flavour and decorate with an orange wheel.
Whether you munch them on arrival, go for a baked peaches recipe, add them to a cocktail or freeze them, there are no shortage of things to do with peaches. Then there are all the big dishes like peach pie and peach cobbler, cookies, muffins, pancakes and much more – the possibilities really are endless.
I’d love to hear your favourite peach recipe – do you have a family favourite? Or a modern dish that you have made loads and love? Maybe some simple tip to use those last few peaches left after a pie? Drop your ideas in the comments!