What’s fresh in May? Peachy keen
GET YOUR FILL OF THIS FAVORITE, FUZZY AND IN-SEASON FRUIT
Story by Bailey Gilliam
Raw, grilled, baked, boiled, candied, blended. There are many ways to eat South Carolina’s state fruit that is rich in vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds. The many sweet varieties can benefit your body inside and out and should be incorporated into your daily diet routine. Now that they’re ripe and ready to be picked in the Lowcountry, LOCAL Life has prepared a peachy guide as to how to grow them, where to buy them and how to prepare them.
The peach (Prunus persica) is a deciduous tree first domesticated and cultivated in the Zhejiang province of Eastern China, but they’ve been grown locally since the 1800s. Hilton Head provides the perfect climate for peaches due to our hot summers and sandy soil.
To grow a peach tree from a single peach, carefully crack open a peach pit and remove the kernel for quicker germination. Then place the peach pit kernel into a plastic bag, fill it with slightly moist potting soil, seal it and place it in your refrigerator. After two to three months, check it for germination. Once the pit has grown roots at least half an inch long, remove it from the refrigerator and plant the seedling in a container. Keep the seedling in a sunny location and provide enough water to keep the soil moist. Move it outdoors in early spring after the last frost.
If you’re impatient and want peaches without waiting for a tree to grow, you can always plant an existing peach tree. Plant peach trees in late winter or early spring in a sunny location. New trees need two gallons of water a week, or one inch of rainfall, and do well with a fertilizer high in phosphorus and low in nitrogen.
Peaches & cream
Peaches are packed with antioxidants, which protect your body from aging and disease, and they contain compounds that may help reduce risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, as well as triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Peaches also appear to be linked to a lower risk of certain cancers and may boost immunity, protect against toxins and lower blood-sugar levels. Peaches and their flowers can help keep your skin glowing by maintaining moisture and protecting against sun damage. They can also improve digestion and alleviate allergy symptoms.
The fresher and riper the fruit, the more antioxidants it contains, but canned peaches seem to have similar amounts of vitamins and minerals as long as the canned varieties are unpeeled.
Pretty as a peach
While there are more than 300 varieties of peaches in the United States and more than 2,000 globally, peaches are classified in three groups: clingstone, freestone and semi-freestone. These classifications refer to the way the fruit’s flesh clings to the pit.
The clingstone class of peaches gets its name from the way that the fruit flesh clings securely to the pit. Clingstone varietals ripen between May and August and have yellow flesh that turns mild red to bright red close to the pit. Clingstones have a soft texture, high sugar content and juiciness that make them ideal to eat as a snack and to incorporate in desserts. Varieties of clingstone peaches include Santa Rosa and Red Beauty.
The freestone classification refers to peaches with flesh that removes easily from the pit. Like clingstone varietals, freestones are good to eat fresh as a snack. However, their firm texture, relatively low level of juiciness and mild sugar content make them ideal for baking purposes; they do not mask other flavors and maintain much of their firmness when exposed to heat. You can harvest freestone varietals between late May and October. Freestone varieties include O’Henry, Elegant Lady and Red Top. Semi-freestone peaches are a hybrid of clingstone and freestone varietals.
Semi-freestones combine two of the most prized qualities of clingstones and freestones – a relatively high sugar content and juiciness along with flesh that doesn’t cling to the pit. LL
Ain’t that a peach?
• White peaches are sweeter, while yellow peaches tend to be more tart.
• When choosing peaches, the sweeter the smell, the riper they will be. Avoid brown, bruised or wrinkled fruits. Look for hard or only slightly soft flesh.
• Press down on a peach’s flesh to feel for a slight give to determine that it’s ripe and ready.
• Peaches continue to ripen once picked. If they are too firm, let them sit on the counter for a few days.
• Peaches last about one week at room temperature. Store in the refrigerator to prevent over-ripening.
• Ripe peaches can be frozen, but slice them first and coat their flesh with a bit of lemon juice to prevent browning.
Brown sugar grilled peaches
3 large peaches, halved and pitted
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Ice cream for serving
Sprigs of mint for garnish
Directions  Preheat grill to medium-high.  Brush the cut side of the peaches with butter and sprinkle with brown sugar. Rub the brown sugar into the butter so it sticks. Sprinkle with cinnamon.  Place the peaches cut side up and grill for 3 minutes. Flip over and grill for 3-5 minutes or until browned and tender.  Serve with ice cream and a mint garnish. Optional: drizzle with caramel sauce or honey.
Pectin-free peach jam
3 1/2 pounds peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
2 1/2 cups sugar
Juice from 1 lemon
Directions  Add peaches and lemon juice to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Use a spatula or masher to crush peaches to your desired consistency.  Reduce the heat to medium. Add sugar. Bring the peaches back to a boil, stirring frequently.  Continue to boil and stir until peaches reduce and reach desired consistency. This can be anywhere from 15-25 minutes; the jam should stick to the spoon when lifted and turned sideways.  Let the peach preserves cool. If you dislike the consistency, you may reboil the peaches for 10 additional minutes and let cool again.
Peach pie pancakes
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
3/4 cup nonfat milk
1/2 cup finely diced peaches
Directions  Whisk flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, stir together butter and vanilla. Mix in the Greek yogurt, stirring until smooth. Alternate between adding the flour mixture and the milk, beginning and ending with the flour, stirring until just incorporated. Gently fold in the peaches.  Lightly coat a nonstick pan with cooking spray and preheat over low heat. Using 2 tablespoons of batter for each pancake, spoon the batter onto the hot pan and spread into a circular shape. Let them cook for 2-3 minutes or until a slight skin starts to form around the edges and the bottom is lightly browned. Slide a spatula underneath, flip and continue to cook for another 1-2 minutes or until golden brown.  Top pancakes with syrup and fresh peach slices.