Summer is the time for fresh, juicy peaches.
Summer is the time for fresh, juicy peaches. Take advantage of easy access to locally grown, tree-ripened peaches while they are in season, because peaches do not get sweeter once harvested, notes a University of Missouri Extension nutrition specialist. “Peaches shipped in from out-of-state are picked before fully ripe,” says Lynda Johnson. “They will soften over time, but they won’t get any sweeter.” Because of an especially warm spring, peaches in Missouri are ripening earlier than usual this year. A number of counties across Missouri have peach orchards. “You can easily obtain locally grown fruit by visiting area orchards, roadside produce stands and farmers markets,” she said. For best quality, select peaches that are firm to slightly soft and free from bruises. “The best sign of ripeness in a peach is a creamy or golden undertone, often called ‘ground color,’” she said. Fresh peach fragrance also indicates ripeness. “Avoid peaches with a green ground color, as they lack flavor and usually shrivel and become tough rather than ripen,” she said. Firm ripe peaches with good ground color will become fully ripe and soft in three to four days when kept at room temperature, Johnson said. Peaches are ready to eat when they give to gentle palm pressure. Store fully ripe peaches in the refrigerator and use within three to five days. For ease in peeling, Johnson suggests dipping peaches into boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds, then plunging into ice water. The peach skins will slip right off. To keep cut peaches from browning, drizzle with lemon or orange juice, or use a commercial ascorbic acid mixture as directed. A medium peach contains about 40 calories and provides vitamin A, potassium, magnesium and fiber. These nutrients, plus phytochemicals in peaches, may help reduce your risk for certain cancers, heart disease and age-related vision loss, Johnson said. Peaches can be preserved by freezing and canning, or made into sweet spreads. Many enjoy preparing spicy pickled peaches or peach salsas.