Delicious and widely popular peaches are native to China, from where they spread to rest of the world via ancient silk route. Peach fruits belong to the genus, Prunus; in the family of Rosaceae. Scientific name: Prunus persica.
|White-green variety peach||Yellow-red variety|
The peach plant is described as a small, deciduous tree that grows upto 25 to 30 feet tall, and widely grown inside the United States, Europe, and China for its juicy fruits. There are several cultivars of peach grown all over the world which differ in their color, size and growing characteristics based upon their regions of origin.
|Donut or flat peach.
Photo courtesy: Gary soup
In general, each peach tree bears numerous, almost uniform sized fruits between May and September months. Its fruit is about the size of small apple, measuring about 7-10 cm in diameter and weigh about 130-160 grams. It features fuzzy outer surface with longitudinal depressions extending from its stem end to the tip. Depending upon the seed that is free or firmly attached to the pulp, they are classified into free-stone variety or clinging seed variety.
Flat or donut peaches are flattened, disc like stone-free fruits drawn inward like a disc at its center. They have similar peach flavor and taste.
Internally, its pulp is juicy sweet and tart in taste with pleasant aroma. Depending upon the variety, its flesh has white to creamy-yellow with a centrally placed single seed enclosed inside the hard shell. Seeds are inedible.
Wonderfully delicious peaches are low in calories (100 g just provide 39 calories), and contain no saturated fats. Nonetheless, they are packed with numerous health promoting compounds, minerals, and vitamins.
The total measured anti-oxidant strength (ORAC value) of 100 g peach fruit is 1814 TE (Trolex equivalents).
Fresh peaches are a moderate source of antioxidant, vitamin-C. Vitamin-C has anti-oxidant effects and is required for connective tissue synthesis inside the human body. Consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps develop resistance against infectious agents, and help scavenges harmful free radicals.
Fresh fruits are also a moderate source of vitamin-A and ß-carotene. ß-carotene is a pro-vitamin, which converts into vitamin A inside the body. Vitamin A is essential for night vision. It is also essential for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. Consumption of natural fruits rich in vitamin A is known to offer protection from lung and oral cavity cancers.
They are rich in many vital minerals such as potassium, fluoride and iron. Iron is required for red blood cell formation. Fluoride is a component of bones and teeth and is essential for prevention of dental caries. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that help regulate heart rate and blood pressure.
Peaches contain health promoting flavonoid poly phenolic antioxidants such as lutein, zea-xanthin and ß-cryptoxanthin. These compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various disease processes.
Peaches can be available year round; however, the season for fresh fruits lasts from May until October. In the stores, look for fresh ones featuring rich color and may still have a slight whitish "bloom" on their surface indicating freshness, and that they have not been over handled. Avoid ones with excessive softness, or with surface cuts and bruises. Ripe fruits yield to gentle pressure and feature sweet aroma.
Slightly hard but mature fruits can be kept at room temperature until they ripen. Ripening process can be enhanced by applying ethylene (similar to ripening of bananas). Storing inside a paper bag concentrates this gas and hastens ripening process.
Ripe fruits can be kept inside the refrigerator but preferably be brought back to room temperature before eating to enjoy their rich flavor.
Wash them in cold running water just before using. Fresh ripe peaches should be enjoyed as a whole along with skin. Otherwise, incise the fruit lengthwise deeply until its hard seed felt and then remove the seed. Skin can be peeled using a paring knife as in apples.
As in apples, sliced peach fruit sections turns brown on exposure to air (an enzymatic brownish discoloration due to conversion of ferrous oxide to ferric oxide). If you have to serve them sliced, rinse slices in water added with few drops of fresh lemon.
To peel the skin, score a small cross at the base end using a knife. Dip in boiling water just for a half-a-minute and immediately immerse in cold water to cool quickly. Then peel its skin away from the cross.
Here are some serving tips:
Photo courtesy: norwichnuts
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