Peaches originate from China and were cultivated at least 3,000 years ago. Alexander the Great brought them back to Greece. Romans began cultivating peaches in the first century AD. Then peaches were introduced to the Americas by Spanish explorers in the 16th century.
Peaches are high in a number of nutrients our body needs such as niacin, thiamine, potassium and calcium. They are also high in beta carotene, an antioxidant that converts to Vitamin A, which is essential for healthy hearts and eyes. The darker the peach’s color, the more Vitamin A it has in its pulp. The antioxidants may also help in maintaining healthy urinary and digestive functions. They are also good sources of lycopene, zeaxanthin, and lutein.
Like most fruits, most of the vitamins are found in the skin, so be sure to enjoy peaches with their fuzzy skin and all, but avoid the pit. Pits contain cyanide, a toxic substance, and ingestion of large quantities can be fatal.
Peaches are available year round but the season for fresh ones is from May till October. When buying peaches look for blemish-free, well-rounded, heavy and almost orange in color. A ripe peach will give slightly when gently pressed with the thumb along the seam and should emit a sweet, spicy fragrance.
Peaches that are very hard or those that are green or have wrinkled skin will never ripen properly. Avoid peaches with excessively soft, or with cuts and bruises.
Slightly hard but mature peaches can be kept at room temperature until they ripen. You can also place them in a paper bag with a semi-ripe banana and that will speed up the process.
Ripe peaches can be stored in the crisper bin of your refrigerator where they will keep for up to five days. They should be at room temperature before being eaten to enjoy their rich flavor.
Dried peaches are also available in the special stores.
PREPARING AND SERVING TIPS
Wash them in cold running water just before using. Fresh ripe peaches should be enjoyed as a whole along with skin. If you want to remove the skin it should come off fairly easy when the fruit is ripe.
Peaches can be used in a variety of ways: Raw or cooked fruit pies and tarts, fruit salads, cobblers, smoothies and many other imaginative ways to incorporate its nutrition into your diet.