In Season: Peaches
By Alex Cantatore
There, along the slopes of China’s Kunlun Mountains, a small, deciduous, fruit-bearing tree first grew. But it wasn’t until the fruit came to Persia and the Romans termed it the “Persian apple” that it got its modern name – the peach.
China still dominates the world’s peach production, as it has since the peach was first cultivated there in 2000 BC. It’s a favored fruit there, fit for kings and emperors throughout history.
Alexander the Great brought the peach to Europe after he conquered the Persians. And paintings of peach trees are clearly visible on the walls of buildings destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, in 79 AD.
The peach came to America in the early 17th century, at the hands of noted horticulturalist George Minifie. Thomas Jefferson had peach trees at Montcello, and eventually the fruit spread to California’s Central Valley where it thrives; California now leads America with 74 percent of the nation’s peach production, beating even Georgia handily.
The peach is a drupe, closely related to the cherries, plums, and almonds that also dominate Central Valley agriculture. And what we think of as a nectarine is, in fact, still a peach; the nectarine’s lack of fuzz is due to a genetic trait, like hair color in a human.
Peaches are available with either yellow or white flesh, and are either “clings” or “freestones” – terms referring to how the flesh attaches to the pit. Freestones are commonly eaten fresh, while clings are usually canned or frozen.
As of 2008, the average American ate 8.8 pounds of peaches every year – 3 pounds of those canned. Look for the freshest peaches in season from April 20 through Oct. 10.
In other words, The Presidents of the United States of America hit 1996 song “Peaches” was wrong. Peaches come from Stanislaus County, by way of Persia and China.
Bruschetta with Peach Salsa
2 cups chopped peeled peaches
3/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped green onions
2 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Dash of ground red pepper
1 French bread baguette, cut into slices
Combine sugar, lime juice, and red pepper. Stir to create sauce.
Combine peaches, red bell pepper, green onions, and basil. Mix together, then pour sauce on top and mix again.
Toast bread slices. Spoon bruschetta over bread, and enjoy!
Fresh Peach Cobbler
8 peaches, peeled and sliced into thin wedges
1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup and 3 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/4 cup boiling water
1 pint vanilla ice cream
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Combine peaches, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Toss to coat evenly, and pour into a 2 quart baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine flour, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Gently blend in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in water until just combined.
Remove peaches from oven and spoon the crust over the peaches. Combine 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 3 tablespoons white sugar, then sprinkle on top. Bake until crust is golden, about 30 minutes.
Top with ice cream, and serve.