Peaches are the fruit of a tree which is a member of the rose family.
Small trees, they will grow to a maximum of about 6.5 metres (21 feet) tall. In practice, pruning keeps them between 3 and 4 metres (10 and 13 feet) to make it easier to harvest their fruit and to allow sunlight to penetrate the branches more easily. The five-petalled blossoms of the tree are typically pink but may be white.
Peach trees will not survive in regions with extremely cold winters −23 to −26 °C (−10 to −15 °F) or below, but they also do not produce well without a certain amount of chilling in winter.
“Trees that have not had enough chilling hours starting in October or November will make less fruit or fruit that is of poor quality. This need is measured as chilling hours generally as hours of temperature less than 45 F (7 C)…” AgriLife Today. New peach varieties available in January for home gardens across Texas. 30 December 2013. Accessed June 2020 at https://agrilifetoday.tamu.edu/2013/12/30/new-peach-varieties-available-in-january-for-home-gardens-across-texas/
The fruit has a hard pit (aka stone) at the centre, inside of which is a seed. This is surrounded by sweet, juicy edible flesh, which in turn is covered by a fuzzy skin. Peaches are now given a shave before they arrive in North American supermarkets. The peach fuzz is removed with brushes, then washed off with water.
One half of a peach may be larger than the other.
Peaches can be consumed fresh out of hand, served cooked or uncooked in dishes especially desserts, or dried and used as snacks.
The main aroma of peaches comes from chemical compounds from the lactones category including (R)-gamma-decalactone. Parsons, Andy. Introduction. In: Exploring Everyday Chemistry. University of York. Online course. Step 1.3. Accessed November 2021 https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/everyday-chemistry/6/steps/1118280
The same chemical compound also has an intense-peach flavour and is used elsewhere in the food industry. Present as well in champagne, it lends champagne a sweet/peachy aroma. Parsons, Andy. Introduction. In: Exploring Everyday Chemistry. University of York. Online course. Step 1.3. Accessed November 2021 https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/everyday-chemistry/6/steps/1118280
See also: Peach Ice Cream Day
Peaches can be categorized in various ways.
Clingstone vs freestone peaches
One way is “clingstone” versus “freestone.”
Freestone peaches separate more easily from the pit. Clingstone peaches, which don’t separate easily, are now in some parts being called “semi-freestone”, just because it sounds better. If producers had their way, we’d be eating more clingstones, as they are easier to ship.
Yellow vs white peaches
In North America, yellow-fleshed peaches have traditionally been preferred, particularly varieties such as Elberta, Halford and Redhaven.
White peaches have a paler pink coloured skin on the outside and inside, they aren’t really white, rather a very pale yellow. “They taste sweet and a bit floral, and they are typically less acidic than their yellow counterparts — so whether they are firm or soft, they will tend to taste sweet.” Merker, Kate. 4 Types of Peaches You’ll Be Eating All Summer Long. Good Housekeeping. 22 May 2019. Accessed June 2020 at https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food-recipes/cooking/g27556949/types-of-peaches/
In Europe, yellow and white-fleshed peaches have been equally popular.
In Asia, particularly China and Japan, white-fleshed are the preferred peach by far.
In the first part of the 2000s, North American growers began promoting white-fleshed ones to their consumers as well. “White fleshed peaches were initially planted in California to supply [Asian] markets… According to the California Fruit Tree Agreement statistics, white fleshed peaches began to appear as a niche product in the U.S. market by 2000 and are now commonly found in grocery stores throughout the season.” Phillips, Kathleen. White Delight: New peach varieties released for warmer climates. Texas A&M University. 22 February 2013. Accessed June 2020 at https://phys.org/news/2013-02-white-peach-varieties-warmer-climates.html
Now, white-fleshed varieties have been developed which don’t require as many winter chill hours as peach trees traditionally do. This makes them accessible to growers in far-south states in the US such as Texas.
Acidity of peaches
Peaches are generally classed as an acidic fruit.
This might seem odd at first blush, as they are renowned for their sweetness, not sourness. They do not taste tart at all. It’s the sugar in them that masks the tartness, but the acidity is still there under the sweet taste.
Yellow-flesh peaches have a pH in the range of 3.30-4.05. FDA. Approximate pH of Foods and Food Products. April 2007. (This acidity level makes them safe to can with no additives.)
White-fleshed peaches can have a slightly higher pH level (aka lower acidity level) than yellow peaches. The pH of some white varieties can exceed 4.6 (which is the magic cut-off number for inactivating the Clostridium botulinum spores that cause botulism.) This means during any canning process, white peaches would require additional acidification to lower the pH to prevent botulism.
When buying, check the stem to see that it is not green — you want to see a colour such as yellow or white. This is a better indication of ripeness than a nice rosy blush on the sides. The amount of rosy blush actually indicates the variety, not the ripeness. Size makes no difference to taste. And finally, give it a sniff to see if it has developed a fragrance yet.
Wash, peel, then cut up as needed. Or, instead of peeling, rub with a tea towel to remove the fuzz. To remove the pit, use the tip of a knife to pry it out. Have handy a glass of water with a few squirts of lemon juice or some ascorbic acid in it, and dip all the peach pieces in that, to stop the peach flesh from going brown, which happens very quickly.
If you need to peel a lot of peaches, get a large pot of boiling water, and plunge them into the water for 30 to 60 seconds first. Remove from the water, and plunge into a sink or large bowl of cold water. The skins should now pull off when you tug at them with a paring knife. This, at least, is the promise of home economics teachers to us. Many would-be home canners of peaches have sworn off doing so ever again after being reduced to tears with a sticky, mangled mess of peach pieces in front of them.
If you are cooking with less than fully-ripe yellow peaches, it’s not the end of the world. Good Housekeeping notes:
” If you plan to cook them, ripeness matters less. Peaches will get softer and release their natural sugars as they cook.” Merker, Kate. 4 Types of Peaches You’ll Be Eating All Summer Long. Good Housekeeping. 22 May 2019. Accessed June 2020 at https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food-recipes/cooking/g27556949/types-of-peaches/
Note that with freestone peaches the flesh separates from the pit more easily, which does not necessarily mean very easily. It can be very difficult sometimes to get picture perfect peach halves, even with freestones.
Cooking with white peaches
When baking with peaches, you may prefer the cooked texture of yellow peaches to white ones. White peaches can get mushy and fall apart when cooked. A writer for Good Housekeeping says, “Because they are softer, they don’t hold up to long cooking times (they can get mushy).” Merker, Kate. 4 Types of Peaches You’ll Be Eating All Summer Long. Good Housekeeping. 22 May 2019. Accessed June 2020 at https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food-recipes/cooking/g27556949/types-of-peaches/
Cook’s Illustrated compared white and yellow peaches in two different cooking applications and found they overwhelmingly preferred the yellow. They reported:
“[We tried both yellow and white peaches] baked into a rustic, cobbler-like dessert called sonker; and in a fresh salsa. We found that their differences were more than skin-deep. Yellow peaches had a brighter, slightly more acidic taste that balanced the sweetness of the sonker, and their sturdier flesh held up better to baking than that of the white peaches. We also liked the brightness the yellow peaches brought to the salsa. The white peaches, meanwhile, had virtually no acidity, making the sonker taste overly sweet. Their softer flesh turned mushy in the oven, and their delicate floral taste was overwhelmed in salsa… We’ll stick with yellow peaches for baking and cooking and enjoy the mild, floral flavor of white peaches for eating them out of hand. But if you do cook or bake with white peaches, know that their softer, smoother texture may affect the dish’s consistency and you might need to add a bit of acid for balance.” Cook’s Illustrated. Yellow Peaches versus White Peaches. Can white peaches be used interchangeably with yellow peaches? Accessed June 2020 at https://www.cooksillustrated.com/how_tos/11454-yellow-peaches-versus-white-peaches
Food writer Sherri Brooks Vinton notes:
“White peaches also have a more delicate texture that does not stand up to heat very well – fine in a sauce or jam, but not a great whole-fruit option [when cooked.]” Vinton, Sherri Brooks. The Put ’em up! Preserving Answer Book. North Adams, Massachusetts: Storey Publishing. 2014. Page 25.
Canned white peaches may discolour:
“About 90% of canned peaches in Japan are white peaches. However, most white peaches of harvest maturity have a reddish color on the skin and the tissue; but especially the reddish color occurs near the core, depending on the horticultural and environmental factors. When canned white peaches are made from such reddish ones by means of usual methods, the finished product has a dark red, owing to the contained anthocyanin. As such a product is stored at room temperature in a warehouse or on a grocery shelf, the red color changes into dirty brown or purple because of oxidation or anthocyanin complex with heavy metal, so that within few weeks the canned peach loses much of its appearance worthy of marketability. Thus the preservation of the original color in the tissues of white peaches is one of the most important points in determining consumer acceptance.
Various methods tried for decoloration in canning procedure of reddish white peaches were of little success. The most practical method for this project is to cut off the red dish tissues at the beginning of the procedure. At present it is not possible to use the entire fruit for color control if the reddish tissues are used. Another way widely applied by many peach packers for decoloring is the use of ascorbic acid, sorbic acid and poly phosphate. In intense red tissues, however, the effectiveness of those reagents are limited.” Uchiyama, Yoshio. Screening Test for Decoloration of Anthocyanins. in Reddish White Peach. [Agr. Biol. Chem., Vol. 33, No. 9, p. 1342•1345, 1969]
High in vitamins A and C.
Peaches are related to almonds, and in some cheaper brands of ground almonds, some peach kernels will actually be used. However, peach kernels are mildly toxic. This toxicity is treated in the commercial processing to make them safe, so don’t try this at home; discard.
2 medium peaches = 1 cup sliced
1 pound (450 g) peaches = 4 medium peaches = 2-¾ cups sliced = 2-¼ cups chopped
2 halves of canned, drained peaches = 4 oz = 115 g
½ cup of canned, drained peach pieces or quarters = 4 oz = 115 g
1 fresh Peach = 4 oz = 115 g
½ cup frozen peach pieces or quarters = 4 oz = 115 g
350 g (12 oz) fresh whole peaches = approx. 250 ml / 1 cup of canned peach slices = 1 cup of mashed peaches
Store at room temperature whenever practicable but if you are not going to be able to use them right away, refrigerate at a temperature below 5 C (40 F.)
Only wash them when you are ready to use them.
If your peaches are not ripe yet and you want to ripen them in a hurry, put them in a paper bag. This will get them softer and juicier, but they won’t sweeten any more than they are.
Or, place stem-side down on a cotton tea towel, not touching each other, cover with another cotton tea towel, and let ripen for several days up to a week. Some say they will actually sweeten this way.
See here for home canning directions for peaches. Do not attempt to home can white peaches. They are less acidic and will require special adjustments to make them safe to avoid botulism in a sealed jar. As of 2020, no researched safe home-canning procedure recommendation is available. Freeze white peaches instead.
Directions for freezing peaches can be found on the National Center for Home Food Preservation site. They give these tips:
“Freezing peaches is easy, convenient, and less-time consuming than canning. Choose a sugar syrup, dry sugar, or unsweetened pack with halved, sliced, crushed, or puréed peaches. When ready to eat, sliced or halved peaches are best served partially thawed so that textural changes are not as noticeable from the effect of freezing on fruit tissue.” Andress, Elizabeth. Peach Season Has Arrived. Blog post 21 June 2020. Accessed June 2020 at https://preservingfoodathome.com/2020/06/21/peach-season-has-arrived/
Peaches were being cultivated in China over 2,500 years ago. They made their way into Greece and Persia, and the Romans brought the fruit into Europe.
Peach. Adam Augstyn, Ed. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Updated October 2019. Accessed June 2020 at https://www.britannica.com/plant/peach
|↑1||AgriLife Today. New peach varieties available in January for home gardens across Texas. 30 December 2013. Accessed June 2020 at https://agrilifetoday.tamu.edu/2013/12/30/new-peach-varieties-available-in-january-for-home-gardens-across-texas/|
|↑2||Parsons, Andy. Introduction. In: Exploring Everyday Chemistry. University of York. Online course. Step 1.3. Accessed November 2021 https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/everyday-chemistry/6/steps/1118280|
|↑3||Parsons, Andy. Introduction. In: Exploring Everyday Chemistry. University of York. Online course. Step 1.3. Accessed November 2021 https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/everyday-chemistry/6/steps/1118280|
|↑4||Merker, Kate. 4 Types of Peaches You’ll Be Eating All Summer Long. Good Housekeeping. 22 May 2019. Accessed June 2020 at https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food-recipes/cooking/g27556949/types-of-peaches/|
|↑5||Phillips, Kathleen. White Delight: New peach varieties released for warmer climates. Texas A&M University. 22 February 2013. Accessed June 2020 at https://phys.org/news/2013-02-white-peach-varieties-warmer-climates.html|
|↑6||FDA. Approximate pH of Foods and Food Products. April 2007.|
|↑7||Merker, Kate. 4 Types of Peaches You’ll Be Eating All Summer Long. Good Housekeeping. 22 May 2019. Accessed June 2020 at https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food-recipes/cooking/g27556949/types-of-peaches/|
|↑8||Merker, Kate. 4 Types of Peaches You’ll Be Eating All Summer Long. Good Housekeeping. 22 May 2019. Accessed June 2020 at https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food-recipes/cooking/g27556949/types-of-peaches/|
|↑9||Cook’s Illustrated. Yellow Peaches versus White Peaches. Can white peaches be used interchangeably with yellow peaches? Accessed June 2020 at https://www.cooksillustrated.com/how_tos/11454-yellow-peaches-versus-white-peaches|
|↑10||Vinton, Sherri Brooks. The Put ’em up! Preserving Answer Book. North Adams, Massachusetts: Storey Publishing. 2014. Page 25.|
|↑11||Uchiyama, Yoshio. Screening Test for Decoloration of Anthocyanins. in Reddish White Peach. [Agr. Biol. Chem., Vol. 33, No. 9, p. 1342•1345, 1969]|
|↑12||Andress, Elizabeth. Peach Season Has Arrived. Blog post 21 June 2020. Accessed June 2020 at https://preservingfoodathome.com/2020/06/21/peach-season-has-arrived/|