Hello my dear readers,
It’s time to discover another wonderful summer fruit. Today let’s discover the peaches.
With apricots, melon and watermelon, peaches complete the picture of typical summer fruits: whether they are white or yellow, with a velvety or smooth skin, peaches are always sweet and refreshing and for this reason everyone really likes them.
In today’s post we will see:
- Peaches origins
- Peaches variety
- How to buy peaches
- How to use peaches in the kitchen
- 3 ways to ripen peaches perfectly
Peach tree: from China to the Roman Empire
The peach is older than humanity. In 2015, scientists found fossil peaches pits dating back to around 2.6 million years ago, long before humans appeared on earth.
The peach tree, whose scientific name is Prunus Persica, is a plant of Chinese origin, but for many centuries it was mistakenly believed that it came from Persia where, however, it arrived only at the beginning of the second century before Christ, just before the advance of the Roman army in what represents the current Iran.
There are many legends related to this plant. One of these attributes its birth to a kernel that a fisherman had found in the belly of a fish and that he had planted in his garden: a tree with rosy flowers was born and the fruit was called peach to remember its marine origin.
The peach tree cultivation spread throughout the Mediterranean Sea basin during the first century thanks to Alexander the Great.
Peach tree: from Europe to America
With the fall of the Roman Empire, which had loved and used this fruit so much, the cultivation of the peach tree almost completely disappeared from the European countryside. Some of these varieties, as often happened in that period, were preserved by monks or important families who preserved the precious tree thanks to Charlemagne, who promoted the cultivation of the peach tree in the gardens of the monasteries of his vast empire.
We have to wait until the Renaissance, however, to review a glorious period for this type of cultivation, which began to expand again in particular in Tuscany under the Medici dynasty.
The peach tree arrived in the New World instead only after the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus in 1492, thanks to Spanish colonizers. Here the crop found very favorable conditions to spread, especially among the Aztecs in Mexico and arriving in 1885, to be the most important fruit tree in California.
Peach tree: mythology and immortality
The peach tree cultivation is closely linked to popular folklore, especially in its home country where it is highly celebrated.
The peach tree represents the tree of life, immortality and spring, while its fruit is a fairy, a symbol of wealth and long life.
On the immortality powers of peaches there is an anecdote recorded in 1977, when the body of the Marquis of Tai’s wife dating back to the 2nd century BC was found, perfectly intact and with a bowl of peaches alongside.
In fact, a Chinese legend says that this fruit eaten just before leaving the earthly world would help the body to preserve itself even after death.
Even today during the wedding the Chinese brides bring peach blossoms as a wish for happy union and opulence.
Country you go custom that you find and this saying does not change even with regard to this crop.
If in China it is celebrated as a symbol of immortality, in Egypt the peach tree leaf is a symbol of silence, in Japan instead it is revered as a protector against evil forces and its flowering is a symbol of rebirth.
In Egypt, the peach was sacred to Harpocrates, god of silence and childhood, so much so that even today the cheeks of children are compared to peaches, for their softness and fleshiness.
In the Christian world, on the other hand, peach is the fruit of salvation and is often represented in the paintings where the Madonna and Child are depicted with peach leaves close to the little one, a perfect combination of the virtue of the word and the heart.
The peach tree is very resistant, but generally does not exceed 8 meters in height. Peaches ripen from mid-May until September.
The world’s largest producers are the United States, Greece, China, Turkey, Italy and Spain.
The peach is a species characterized by a wide variety assortment, in continuous evolution; therefore, in order to classify the numerous species present on the market, some characteristics of the fruit are mainly used, in particular the tomentosity, the color of the peel and the pulp, which allow to divide the fruits into 4 groups:
- Yellow-fleshed peaches – juicy, with a sweet flesh that’s balanced with a light acidity.
- White pulp peaches – slightly sweeter due to their low acidity. Don’t hold up very well when baked so better grill or eat these type of peaches raw.
- Yellow & white pulp nectarines – they have a smooth, fuzz-free skin and have a sweet, almost honeyed flavor.
- Donut peaches – my favourite. They have a flat, saucer shape, resembling a doughnut. They have a sweet, white flesh and a flat shape that makes them perfect for eating out of hand.
How to buy peaches
If you’re looking for juicy and sweet peaches, when buying them you may want to check that they:
- have a slight give to the flesh-neither rock-hard nor mushy, but remember that peaches bruise easily, so don’t use your fingertips to check for firmness, instead, hold the peach in your whole hand.
- smell them, the perfect peaches will have a peachy wonderful smell
- avoid fruit with green around the stem as they aren’t fully ripe or that have shriveled skin as they’re old.
How to use peaches in the kitchen
Sweet and juicy, peaches are ideal for the preparation of fruit salads, smoothies, juices, cocktails, ice creams, granitas and fresh desserts, but they can also be used in an original way in fresh savory dishes.
Peaches lend themselves to various cooking options such as jam, cake, and cobbler, and add a tangy sweetness to poultry, pork and veal dishes.
Peaches and almonds are a natural pairing so you may want to add a twist to classic peaches and cream by whipping cream with a splash of almond essence or amaretto. Cinnamon, nutmeg, sherry, marsala, and rum are other simple additions to enhance peach dishes.
When they are in season they can be prepared in syrup or as jams that can be kept for the whole year.
It was the invention of canning in the 19th century that allowed peaches to be enjoyed all year round. Those in syrup became famous during the wars of the twentieth century due to the scarcity of fresh fruit.
To benefit from the properties of peaches, is better to consume them fresh, firm and keep them in the fridge for no more than 3-4 days. The ideal would be to consume them as a snack, just wash thoroughly and rub with a paper towel to remove the fuzz. Remember that sliced or chopped peaches will discolor; toss with lemon juice to retard browning.
If happens to have more peaches on hand than you can eat or bake up right away, then you may want to slice them, lay them on a baking tray and put in the freezer for a few hours until they’re frozen through. Transfer the peach wedges to a resealable plastic bag and freeze until ready to use. They’ll keep at least 6 months (longer in a free-standing freezer) and are perfect to use in baking.
3 ways to ripen peaches perfectly
We know that seasonal fruits are always the best and this is valid for peaches too.
So if you want to take advantage and eat as many as you can during their season, you need to know that peaches same as apples, pears, avocados and tomatoes, they ripen after being picked so you may purposefully buy peaches at different levels of ripeness with the plan of ripening the harder ones to eat later.
First way is the easiest way, meaning you just need to leave your peaches on the counter, preferably to not touch each other. If you don’t have space, you may put them gently in a bowl but don’t stack too many on top of each other. And if possible leave them where they will receive some direct sunlight, as long as that spot doesn’t get too hot as you don’t want to bake them.
The second way is the fastest way, meaning to put the peaches in a paper bag which it will contain the ethylene gas the fruit gives off, and hastens the ripening process. And if is not faster enough, add a banana too and will ripen them faster.
The third way is to put the peaches in the fridge for when you want to slow down the ripening process but always keep an eye on them to not keep them too long in the fridge as they can start to dry out.