Varieties

Popular Ontario varieties in ripening order include Harrow Diamond Garnet Beauty, Early Redhaven, Redhaven, Vivid, Loring and Harrow Beauty.

Nutrition

One medium-size peach contains 37 calories and is a source of Vitamin C.

History

Archaeologists have found bowls of peaches, revered as a potent symbol of immortality, entombed with Chinese dignitaries several centuries before Christ.

The peach is likely native to that part of China near the Pakistani border where it still grows wild. The Latin name for peach means "Persian plum" because the Romans imported it from Persia (now Iran) some 2,000 years ago.

In the New World, peaches date back to the 1500s, brought first to Latin America by early Spanish colonists. Peach trees flourished in temperate parts of Canada almost from the time of the first European settlement.

Buying and storing

Look for fruit that's relatively firm, with a smooth skin, sweet aroma and clear peach background colour. Avoid wrinkled skin or a greenish tinge at the end, or excessively soft, bruised or blemished fruit.

Early peaches, such as Early Redhaven, are best eaten fresh. Mid-season and late varieties are best for cooking or preserving. They're also superb for eating fresh.

Keep peaches, still fairly solid to touch, at room temperature out of direct sun until ripening begins and their skin yields slightly to gentle pressure.

Ripe peaches should be kept refrigerated in a single layer for no longer than five days. Overripe (extremely soft) peaches should be used, fresh or in cooking, at once.

Preparing

Gently rinse under running water. To make peeling easier, first briefly immerse in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds.

To keep sliced peaches from browning, toss lightly in lemon juice or dip in an absorbic acid solution. Sliced peaches may also be frozen.

Fresh peach ice cream and peach pie are perennial favourites. Peaches are often used in cobblers, crisps, or gently cooked with brown sugar. They are also preserved, made into jam, baked, steeped in red wine, poached in Champagne, brandied, or made into peach Melba.

Peaches are also delicious in main course salads or as a topping for breakfast cereals, pancakes or waffles.