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It's a peachy time to do the 'ripe' thing

August 12, 1998|By Lynn F. Little

Redhaven, Loring and Sunhaven are a few varieties of a favorite summer fruit - peaches. One medium-sized peach contains less than 50 calories and is a good source of beta carotene and other carotenoids, fiber and phytochemicals.

A versatile fruit, peaches can be sliced and served with whole grain cereals or baked, grilled, poached and sauteed to make a tasty side dish for any meal.

When selecting peaches, that glowing blush can't be depended upon as a sign of ripeness. Blush (the red color) depends on the variety. A soft, creamy-to-gold under-color is the best indication of a ripe and flavorful peach. Aroma also tells; a ripe fruit will smell "peachy." Avoid green fruit, it will not ripen further. Also forgo fruit that is rock hard or bruised. Picked peaches will not become sweeter, but ripening does ensure a softer, juicer fruit.

If fresh peaches are to be eaten immediately, select fruit that has begun to soften. Be careful not to squeeze the peach when checking for firmness. Peaches bruise easily and develop decay rapidly. Don't buy peaches with large flattened bruises (they will have large areas of discolored flesh underneath) or with signs of decay. Decay starts as a pale tan spot which expands in a circle and gradually turns darker in color.

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Firm-ripe peaches may be kept at room temperature for a few days to fully ripen, then refrigerated until ready to use. Place peaches in a loosely closed paper bag at room temperature on the kitchen counter. The natural gases given off by the fruit will speed the ripening process. Check peaches daily - they are ripe and ready to eat when they yield to gentle pressure.

Wash the peaches when you are ready to eat them. Do not refrigerate fruit until it is ripe, since this will delay ripening. Peaches can be stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag and are best when used within one week.

How much should you buy? Count on three to four medium-sized peaches (approximately one pound) yielding one and one-half to two cups sliced or diced fruit. If you are buying by the bushel, one bushel equals 48 to 50 pounds and should yield 18 to 25 quarts of canned fruit.

Here are some simple preparation ideas for peaches:

Peach Salsa




4 peeled and diced peaches
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup raisins
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice


Combine peaches, raisins, red onion and lemon juice. Refrigerate several hours, then serve with grilled chicken or fish. You can also serve as a dip with tortilla chips.

Baked Peaches




Blend together 2 tablespoons honey, lemon or lime juice and 1 tablespoon melted butter or margarine. Brush over 3 halved, pitted and peeled peaches. Sprinkle with a mixture of 3/4 teaspoon ginger and 3/4 teaspoon coriander. Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit until tender, about 20 minutes.

Topping for yogurt and ice-cream




Combine one-half cup water, 2 tablespoon sugar, and 2 tablespoons lemon juice in a pan. Bring to a boil and boil uncovered for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 3 peeled, sliced peaches. Serve over frozen yogurt or ice cream. Stir into plain lowfat yogurt.

Fruit and vegetable medley




1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tomato, diced
3 cups broccoli florets
2 peaches, sliced
2 small zucchini, sliced


Heat oil in large skillet or wok and stir-fry broccoli and zucchini for five minutes. Add tomato and peaches. Cover and cook for three minutes.

If you would like information on preserving (canning and freezing) peaches, send a self-addressed, stamped (32-cent) business-size envelope to Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County, 1260 Maryland Avenue, Hagerstown, Md. 21740. Mark the envelope "Peaches."

Maryland Cooperative Extension programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences extension educator for Maryland Cooperative.

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