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Food & Nutrition: Enjoy fresh peaches while you can

Peaches, like many foods, are best eaten when they are in season and in their simplest form. Peaches are a treat for your sweet tooth and are excellent as a quick snack. They are so sweet and have so much flavor.

The peach is delicious just as it is, but also frozen, canned or dried for later eating. Home frozen or canned peaches are so much better than what the commercial food industry can produce.

Until modern horticulturists developed the strains we enjoy today, most peaches were small, fairly sour and much fuzzier than modern varieties. Today, there are thousands of named peach varieties.

Some have stones that cling to the flesh, called clingstone varieties; others are freestone. Some have white skins with a pink blush; others have a deep yellow skin with a reddish blush. Some are firm fleshed varieties designed for canning; others are for eating fresh.

When selecting peaches, smell them. An appealing aroma is the best clue to a ripe peach. Look also for fruit that gives slightly to pressure and has a yellow or creamy background color between its blushed areas. Avoid fruit with greenish undertones and fruit that is bruised or very soft. Peaches will keep in the refrigerator crisper for up to two weeks.

With the peel on, the peach has more flavor and is better for you, as the peel contributes fiber.

Most peaches are peeled for use in cooked food, but when making pie or cobbler, to plan to leave the peel on for the added flavor and fiber; this is also a real time saver.

Very ripe peaches are usually easy to peel; others may need to be blanched first. To blanch, cut a small “x” in the rounded end opposite the stem. Dip fruit in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then plunge into ice water. The skin will peel away readily.

Peaches oxidize and brown when exposed to air. To slow down or prevent this, rub or sprinkle with lemon juice.

To preserve peaches, freeze them. Select peaches that aren’t quite ripe, as freezing will make them a little softer. Instead of freezing in sugar syrup or dry pack, which is where you mix sugar with the fruit, try fruit juice.

For more information, download Purdue Extension’s publication “Let’s Preserve: Peaches, Apricots, Nectarines.”

For more recipes and tips from Purdue Extension Educator Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross, subscribe to the Food & Nutrition email newsletter.

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