The UK has all sorts of delicious native fruits and vegetables which make seasonal eating great fun, but one thing we do miss out on is our own peaches. We have to import them from more temperate climates such as France, Italy or Spain – but they are nonetheless a juicy and delicious summer treat.
Nutritional peach facts
You might think you eat them purely for pleasure, to enjoy the sweet juice dripping down your chin and sticky finger afterwards, so you’ll probably be pleased to learn some of these nutritional peach facts. Peaches are full of vitamin C and beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Even a large peach contains fewer than 70 calories but packs a handy potassium punch and provides you with three grammes of fibre. There’s also a bit of vitamin K, vitamin E and six B complex variants.
Historical peach facts
Peaches originally reached us along the silk road from China, via Persia and brought to Europe by the Romans. They are now grown worldwide, weather permitting, and can be easily raised from seed. Biologically the peach tree belongs to the same botanical class as roses, almonds and apricots and is available in hundreds of different varieties. We are mostly familiar with the yellow and white fleshed varieties. Nectarines are basically a smooth skinned variety of peach.
Peaches are one of those fruits which must ripen on the tree to develop full flavour and sweetness – they will not continue to ripen once picked. Look for firm but not hard flesh, which gives slightly under pressure. The variation of red and yellow colouring on the skin doesn’t indicate ripeness, but avoid any peaches with green flesh as they have been picked too early. The more scented the flesh, the deeper the flavour of the fruit.
Help peaches soften by keeping them at room temperature and in a paper bag. You can keep soft peaches in the fridge but this will only prolong their lifespan by a day or two.
Always eat peaches at room temperature. You can skin peaches easily as you would tomatoes, by immersing them in boiling water for about ten seconds first. Like apples the flesh will brown when exposed to the air but you can prevent this by putting lemon juice on the surface.
You can stew peaches and eat them with custard or bake them into pies and crumbles, but we think it’s time to bring an old favourite dessert back into fashion: Peach Melba – fresh peaches served with vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce.