Peaches are one of summertime’s most highly anticipated fruits
A symbol of luck, abundance and protection in its native China, the peach also commonly represents longevity, prosperity and happiness.
Plump with nutrients and health-protecting plant compounds, and spectacular in pie, fruit salad, or straight from the tree, it’s no wonder we find peaches, well, just peachy.
One of summer’s most eagerly anticipated fruits, the peach has been adored for thousands of years. A symbol of luck, abundance and protection in its native China, the peach also commonly represents longevity, prosperity and happiness in Japan, Korea and ancient Greece.
The peach enjoys a history even more colorful than its rosy blush, having travelled along the Silk Road and arriving in Europe courtesy of Alexander the Great.
A member of the rose family, along with cherries, plums and apricots, the peach (Prunus persica) is a stone fruit, known for its single large seed, or pit, within a juicy flesh.
Peaches come in two main varieties — clingstone, where the flesh sticks to the pit, and freestone, where it separates easily. In shades of red, pink, yellow and white, with yellow or white flesh, peaches look very similar to their cousin, the nectarine, except for peaches’ unique peach fuzz.
One large peach packs a full 10% DV (Daily Value, based on 2,000 calories/day) of filling dietary fiber, 19% DV of health protecting antioxidant vitamin C, and 11% DV of vitamin A for healthy vision.
Peaches, along with other stone fruits, contain specific bioactive plant compounds with potential health benefits, which include fighting obesity-related diabetes and cardiovascular disease, known as metabolic syndrome.
Emerging science, including research study from the American Chemical Society (2012), shows how these compounds, which include anthocyanins and quercetin, work on different cells simultaneously to fight the disease. Peaches have also shown promise in the fight against breast cancer.
Along with plums, peaches contain especially high levels of two phenolic components that are responsible for the deaths of cancer cells (Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 2015).
The finer points
Fresh peaches are available from late spring through late summer, but they’re best at their peak in July and August.
Choose those with an unblemished creamy yellow to gold background — the rose-colored blush is just for show — for the sweetest flavor. A fragrant aroma and slight give when lightly squeezed is a sign of ripeness, while a firm fruit will need to ripen at room temperature a few days.
When ripe, refrigerate up to a week.
Enjoy peaches out of hand, diced into salsa and salads, topped with low-fat milk or yogurt, or peeled and pureed into smoothies and frozen summer treats.
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