by Julie Christensen
Late summer and early fall mean peach time. Enjoy this all-too-brief season by eating peaches to your heart’s content when they’re available in local markets. They’re not nearly as tasty come January.
One fresh peach has about 40 calories and moderate amounts of vitamin C, vitamin A, and fiber. Peaches are a low-glycemic food, meaning they won’t cause blood sugar to spike, even though they taste sweet. (You can see our entire post about the health and nutritional benefits of peaches here.)
So how do you go about picking peaches? Perhaps you’ve had the disappointing experience of buying rosy red peaches only to find they had a mealy, soft texture and little flavor. Peaches taste bet when picked ripe, but those you buy in the store are often picked while they’re green so they’ll ship well. If picked too early or stored at improper temperatures, they never ripen.
Local peaches are your best bet for mouth-watering flavor. Buy peaches from a roadside stand, farmer’s market or even directly from an orchard. Some smaller grocers will special order peaches from a nearby orchard in bulk if you ask.
Don’t rely on color as an indicator of quality or ripeness. Some peaches are naturally redder than others. Look at the base color of the peach underneath its rosy hue — a ripe peach will be yellow or cream, rather than green. However, the best indicator of ripeness and flavor is fragrance. A delicious, ripe peach has a sweet, fruity scent.
Once you get your peaches home, ripen them in a paper bag or place them in a bowl on the counter top. If they’re getting ripe too quickly, put them in the refrigerator. Eat peaches within 3 to 4 days of purchase. Peaches eaten fresh out of hand are one of the simple pleasures of life, but when you tire of them, we’ve collected some quick, healthy recipes to tempt your taste buds.
Summer Grilled Peach Salad (Trader Joe’s)
Think grilled peaches, bacon, chevre cheese and baby greens all tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette — fast enough for lunch, but elegant enough for dinner. Delicious!
Peach Salad with Peach Cumin Dressing (A Farmgirl’s Dabbles)
Most peach salad recipes call for a sweet dressing, but this one amps up the flavor with cumin and lime. The recipe calls for fresh mint, but feel free to substitute other herbs from your garden, including thyme, rosemary or lemon balm.
Peach Smoothie (Taste of Home)
Smooth and creamy as peach ice cream, but infinitely better for you. Use fresh or frozen peaches in this recipe.
Peaches and summer squash? Absolutely. When grilled, both have a smoky, sweet flavor. This Italian-inspired recipe includes some fancy ingredients you’re not likely to find at your local Krogers. Simply substitute good Parmesan and omit the truffle oil. Problem solved.
The chipotle-peach dressing is what makes this dish special. Chipotle chilies get their smoky, sweet flavor from roasting. You can usually find them in cans, packed in adobo sauce, a rich, spicy sauce that adds flavor and sweetness to this dish.
Raspberry Chicken Salad with Grilled Peaches (Annie’s Eats)
Raspberry season often coincides with peach season — a happy coincidence since the two taste delicious paired together. This green salad makes a complete meal with grilled chicken, peaches, mixed greens, berries and a raspberry vinaigrette. Serve it with crusty bread and brie cheese for a special luncheon.
Sicilian Pork Loin with Agrodolce Peaches (Food Network)
A rosemary-honey brine tenderizes and flavors the pork loin, which is then topped with peaches glazed with honey and wine vinegar. Fancy enough for a special dinner.
Crepes with Warm Cognac, Peaches and Almonds (Sunset Magazine)
Crepes seem complicated to make, but nothing could be simpler. If you can make pancakes, you can make crepes. Crepes go together quickly and can be refrigerated ahead of time so they’re a great option for entertaining. They’re also a bit more healthy than more decadent peach desserts. In fact, why save them for dessert? How about crepes with peaches for breakfast?
Emeril’s Fresh Peach Muffins (ABC News)
Speaking of breakfast, these peach muffins with pecan streusel topping go together quickly and taste delicious for a summer breakfast or brunch.Julie Christensen learned about gardening on her grandfather’s farm and mother’s vegetable garden in southern Idaho. Today, she lives and gardens on the high plains of Colorado. When she’s not digging in the dirt, Julie writes about food, education, parenting and gardening.