- Virginia Johnson
No sodium. No cholesterol. Extremely low in fat. High in fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, and niacin as well being sweet and juicy—what's not to love about a peach? Unless sugar is a concern, they are certainly a most delightful guilt-free treat. Whether they are in season locally or still available in the freezer section, peaches have many uses and are an excellent addition to your dinner table.
Peaches are said to have originated in Asia Minor/Persia or possibly China. Chinese legend has Hsi Wang Mu (Queen Mother of the West) cultivating the peaches of immortality in a paradise located in the Kunlun Mountains. She has been especially revered by Chinese women on reaching their 50th birthdays.
The Spanish reportedly brought peaches to the Western Hemisphere around 1600. Today, the United States produces about a fifth of the world's supply of peaches. Peaches are related to roses and lots of delicious fruits--such as nectarines, plums, and apricots.
Those Famous Georgia Peaches
A good-looking, well-mannered lady from Georgia is sometimes called a Georgia peach, but the fruit itself can be just as sweet. Peaches were grown on Georgia's St. Simons and Cumberland islands as early as the 16th century* and were first shipped out of the South in the 1850s. After the Civil War, cotton could no longer be grown economically, so peaches became a new cash crop. The most popular varieties of Georgia peaches have changed through time, and currently there are about 40 different types that find their way to market from Georgia.
Want your peaches locally grown? Various kinds of peaches can be found at farmers' markets in July and August, or you can take a trip to one of Virginia's peach orchards. Once you have a bushel or two of them, you can certainly enjoy them just as they are, but here are some recipes to try:
Peach ice cream is one of summer's joys. You can make this low fat version calling for frozen peaches anytime. If you'd rather try a luscious, full-fat version, Frog Hollow Farm has developed a recipe for a creamy peach semifreddo—no ice cream maker required.
Come chilly autumn evenings, this hot, sweet salsa will bring a warm summer memory to grilled meat and fish:
7 cups chopped fresh peaches
3 large fresh garden tomatoes
1 & 1/2 cups chopped red onion
3 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 cup white vinegar
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1&1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup sugar
Blanch tomatoes and peaches; peel and chop them.
Combine all ingredients in large pot. Bring to a boil, and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Ladle into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Check the USDA's site for further processing instructions.
Adapted from High Country Orchards' Web site.
If you love cooking with fresh fruits, try these books from the Central Rappahannock Regional Library:
Beans, Greens, and Sweet Georgia Peaches: The Southern Way of Cooking Fruits and Vegetables by Damon Lee Fowler
"...offers recipes for transforming Vidalia onions, sun-ripened tomatoes, field peas, butterbeans, okra, Georgia peaches, plump figs, watermelons, key limes, and Florida citrus into the fruit and vegetable glories of the Southern table." These rich, radiant and mainly traditional recipes may surprise those who are accustomed to heavy Southern dinner fare.
How to Pick a Peach: The Search for Flavor, from Farm to Table by Russ Parsons
More than just peaches! If the biochemical properties of food, particularly your produce, fascinates you, this is an excellent book to peruse. The proof of the produce is in the pudding or the casserole or the salsa, but how do you choose the best ones and store them most appropriately?
Peaches by Kelly Alexander
An ode to the peach—with recipes sweet, savory—and for the mixologist.
Delicate yet practical for many purposes, the peach is a delight for any season.