Sweet and juicy peaches are one of North Carolina’s finest summer time fruits. Though they are available year round, they taste best and are less expensive during the summer. In our state, the peach industry is unique because it sells 90 percent of its crop on the fresh market, directly to the consumer, just days after being picked off the tree.
In 2014, North Carolina produced 4,380 tons of peaches (1,100 acres grown) totaling $6.2 million in value to the state’s economy. While our state may not the biggest grower, it is surely one of the best. (source: NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences)
NC peaches are available from the end of May through August. They can be found at roadside stands, farmers markets and retail outlets.
Besides their great taste, peaches are full of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin C, riboflavin and beta-carotene. Peaches are also low in calories, fat free, sodium free and cholesterol free. One medium peach contains the following nutritional value:
Peaches can be eaten fresh in salads and smoothies, as a topping for yogurt, ice cream, cereal, pancakes, or waffles, and as a filling for pies, tarts, cobblers, or strudels. They can also be grilled and served as a unique side dish with meat, fish or poultry. Peaches are also available dried, frozen, canned, and as nectar, jam or jelly.
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.” The rosy “blush” on a peach is not a good indicator of ripeness and differs from one variety to another. 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. Peaches that are picked green may develop more juice, but they will not become sweeter. When selecting canned peaches look for those that are labeled “packed in its own juice,” “lite,” or “no sugar added.” These are healthier choices.
When cleaning and preparing peaches, wash them by rubbing them gently under running water. If a recipe calls for peeled peaches, dip peaches into boiling water for about 30 seconds, then plunge them immediately into iced water. The skins will slip right off.
Fresh peaches darken quickly when exposed to air. Prevent browning of fresh cut peaches by dipping fruit into a mixture of 1 cup water and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. A commercial ascorbic acid mixture like Fruit Fresh can also be used to prevent browning. Store fully ripe peaches in the refrigerator, and for the best peachy taste, serve ripe peaches at room temperature. The next time you’re in the mood for a healthy and delicious fruit, grab a peach! Summer just wouldn’t be the same without the sweet taste of North Carolina peaches.
Try this easy and delicious peach recipe:
Yield: 4 servings
- 1½ cups peaches peeled and sliced or 1½ cups
- frozen peach slices
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg or cinnamon
- 2 cups milk
- 8-10 ice cubes (omit ice is using frozen peaches)
- Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix well.
- Gradually add ice cubes and mix until finely
- crushed. Garnish with a dash of nutmeg.
Sources: Food Sense, Utah State University Cooperative Extension and North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Community Science