By Chelsea Fisher
To call someone “a peach” suggests that they are all good things, bundled up in one near-perfect package. There’s good reason for that. The sunny orange flesh and sweet taste of a peach are almost synonymous with summer, and this fuzzy sovereign of the stone fruits is also a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, niacin, potassium, and vitamin C.
According to a study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, extracts from both peaches and plums have the potential to kill breast-cancer cells, while leaving healthy cells unharmed. Cancer-staving phenolic acids, common in most fruits, are found in highest concentration in pitted fruits like cherries, peaches, and apricots.
The ancient Chinese may have been onto this. Peaches appeared regularly in their folklore as symbols of immortality and vitality. Today, the Chinese still associate peaches with a long life.
At the store, if you can, buy organic peaches. For the best flavor we recommend you buy local, organic peaches from your greenmarket whenever you can. Unlike supermarket fruit their taste and texture is all the better for being tree ripened and not shipped green. Note that the local farmers at your greenmarket who grow peaches conventionally tend to use less pesticides on their fruit than the industrially farmed ones available in the store, plus you can always ask them about spraying yourself. Conventional peaches are ‘cleaner’ eaten peeled. If you let them sit on the counter for a day, their skins will lift off more easily.
Wherever you shop, choose peaches that are blemish-free and give just a little when you press into them. They should have that distinct peach smell, as well. Avoid buying peaches that are bruised as they won’t last. Though peaches with a reddish color may look riper, there is actually no difference between those that have blush and those that don’t. Peaches that are not yet ready at the market can be ripened on a sunny windowsill or on the countertop in a brown paper bag. Once ripe, they will last in the refrigerator for about a week.
Peaches are great poached, or in summer pies and cobblers, but they can also be included as a sweet and tangy compliment to more savory dishes. Peach salsa is a great addition to any summer menu; use tomatoes, onions, peaches, pears, and bell peppers and mix in some granulated sugar, a pinch of salt, and vinegar to add a dose of color to any plate. Also, like many fruits, peaches can be grilled and used to top a lively summer salad, as in our tasty Peach and Arugula Salad. For a cooling summer drink, try this Peach Sweet Tea Granita, a real crowd pleaser!