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Pears: Beurre Bosc »« Passion Fruit

Peaches

Prunus persica


Description

A fuzzy peach so juicy that it runs down your chin after you bite into it is a great summer afternoon snack.

Nectarines and peaches are very similar due to being the same species, just different cultivars or subspecies. Essentially, a nectarine is just a fuzzless peach: it’s sometimes even possible to find nectarines and peaches growing on the same tree.

Peaches and nectarines are often divided into two varieties: freestone, where the stone slips out easily from the flesh, and clingstone, where the stone adheres to the flesh and has to be cut out. In both types of fruit, the flesh can be either white or yellow, depending on the variety.

Peaches are a good source of vitamins A and C, potassium, niacin, and fibre, and they also contain some calcium and folate.

Peaches soften but don’t ripen off the tree, so choose ones that are already ripe – they’ll give slightly to gentle pressure. Both peaches and nectarines are highly perishable, so only buy as many as you need, and store at room temperature for up to three days.

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History

Though it was long assumed that they originated in Persia (hence the persica in their botanical name), peaches and nectarines are actually from China, where they’ve been cultivated for almost as long as civilisation in China has existed. They were known to be a favourite food of emperors, a symbol for long life, and are mentioned in Chinese writings from as far back as the 10th century BC.

The confusion can be attributed to the Greek philosopher Theophrastus, who thought the peach came from Persia, and named it. The peach probably didn’t make it to Europe properly until just before the Christian period, as it has neither a name in Sanskrit nor is mentioned in early Hebrew texts.

They slowly spread through Europe, due to early growers not realising that peaches do best with a bit of winter chill and trying to plant them in hot countries like Egypt, and reached England in the mid-16th century. They were introduced to North America in 1629, when the Governor of Massachusetts ordered some peach stones for the new colony, where they did well.

Peaches were the first trees to be brought to the new colony in Australia in 1788, and were one of the first fruits to be grown in New Zealand, with whalers in the late 18th century and early 19th century using the stones as small change when trading with Maori. When the early settlers started to arrive in 1814, they found groves of peach trees.

Uses

Peaches can be used anywhere you’d use any other stonefruit, such as in crumbles, cobblers, and tarts. Peach Melba is a classic dessert, with poached peach on top of vanilla ice cream and drizzled with raspberry sauce.

Adding chopped peach to a salsa gives it a sweet, tropical kick, or try peaches in a salad or on bruschetta with rocket and a salty cheese like feta or grilled halloumi.

You don’t need to peel peaches, but if you want to, just immerse the peach in boiling water for a few seconds, refresh it in cold water, and slip the skin off.

Facts

Peaches are a natural source of alpha-hydroxy acids, often used in the cosmetics industry to improve the natural look and feel of skin. Mashing a peach and mixing it with some oatmeal and yoghurt or honey to use as a face mask is cheaper and less painful than a chemical peel, and smells better.



Pears: Beurre Bosc »« Passion Fruit

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