Peaches are among the most popular summer fruits.
Some varieties are so juicy that they have to be eaten slowly just over the sink, because the juice flows from them in a stream.
On the other hand, which varieties are dry, hard and mealy?
You will learn everything (and much more) in this article!
What are peaches and what do they grow on?
Peaches are the fruits of the deciduous tree Prunus persica . The so-called peach tree was first domesticated in Eastern China as early as 6,000 BC. It has been an important part of Chinese culture ever since. Bows and arrows were made from peach wood in the past. Amulets that protect against evil spirits and diseases have preserved the tradition until the present day.
Peaches, soft fleshy fruits with a stone in the middle, belong to the drupe family, as do cherries, apricots, plums, and almonds.
Peaches and almonds are even very closely related botanically. The peach pit has a very similar flavor to almonds. It is for this reason that a cheaper version of marzipan, the so-called persipan, is made from peach pits.
Nectarines and other types of peaches
There are thousands of varieties of peaches, ripe fruits can have orange, red, yellow skin, but also ivory or green.
The skin can also be with traditional fluff, but also without – nectarine.
The flesh is also different in color – depending on the specific variety, it can be yellow, white, or even red or purple.
Commercial varieties with a firm skin that does not bruise during transport and further handling are generally preferred.
The most popular among consumers are red peaches, either with velvet skin (fine and short fluff) or nectarines (completely smooth, without fluff).
Why do peaches have “hairy” skin? The fine fluff is a defense mechanism that protects the peach from insects. Pests cannot lay their eggs through the tiny hairs, nor can they get to the sweet flesh, which would otherwise serve as their food.
Peaches are classified into three general groups on the basis of several criteria: it is (not) easy to separate the pulp from the stone, the color of the pulp, the shape of the fruit and the skin without fluff.
Adhesion of the pulp to the furnace
Freestone: as the name itself suggests, the stone is very easily separated from the pulp. These peaches are very popular at farmers markets, for eating in hand. They are usually larger and firmer, often with white and less juicy flesh. Freestone peaches are suitable for baking, grilling and freezing.
Clingstone: the flesh of these peaches cannot be easily separated from the stone. Most often, these are varieties that have yellow flesh and are juicy, full of peach juice. Clingstone peaches are soft and ideal for processing into jams, jams and syrups.
Yellow flesh: peaches that fall into this group have yellow, orange or red flesh. They are generally described as more sour, less sweet.
White flesh: conversely, peaches with white or ivory flesh tend to be sweeter, with minimal acidity.
In Europe and North America, the more popular cultivars are more acidic, i.e. those with yellow flesh. Unlike Asian countries such as China and Japan, where they tolerate sweet varieties with white flesh.
Nectarines are a genetic mutation of peaches. The difference lies in the smooth skin without fluff, which is also the only difference between nectarines and peaches. Similar to peaches, nectarines can have either white or yellow flesh, depending on the variety. They are also distinguished according to whether or not the pulp can be separated from the stone (freestone and clingstone).
In general, nectarines are slightly sweeter than peaches. Due to the lack of fluff, they appear more red visually and are also more prone to bruising and skin damage.
Flat peach, also known as donut or donut, is a relatively new variety. It is characterized by a flattened shape that resembles a small pumpkin rather than a peach. Compared to normally large varieties, donut peaches have a less “hairy” skin. There are also cultivars without fluff, i.e. nectarine donuts.
Vitamins and nutritional values
Peaches are made up mostly of water (89%) and carbohydrates (10%). They belong to fruits with a low sugar content, their average glycemic index is number 5.
Peaches and nectarines are particularly rich in vitamin C and E. They also contain natural (healthy) sugars and a smaller amount of minerals – potassium, calcium and magnesium. Nectarines have a slightly higher calorie and carbohydrate content, while peaches have more sugar.
| Raw peaches|
| Raw nectarines|
|Energy value||39 kcal||44 kcal|
|Proteins||0.91 g||1.06 g|
|Fats||0.25 g||0.32 g|
|Carbohydrates||9.54 g||10.6 g|
|Fiber||1.5 g||1.7 g|
|Sugars||8.39 g||7.89 g|
|Calcium||6 mg||6 mg|
|Magnesium||9 mg||9 mg|
|Potassium||190 mg||201 mg|
|Vitamin C||6.6 mg||5.4 mg|
|Vitamin E||0.73 mg||0.77 mg|
The sweetest peach in the world was grown in Japan and had a Brix score of 32°. Brix degrees measure the sugar content of fruit. To give you an idea, typical store-bought peaches tend to have a Brix score of 15° at most.
Why eat peaches and nectarines?
Peaches and nectarines provide significant amounts of fiber, both soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber prevents constipation, while soluble fiber supports beneficial bacteria in the intestines and their production. These subsequently produce short-chain fatty acids: acetate and propionate. According to recent studies, these acids treat inflammation in the intestines and can thus improve the clinical symptoms of patients with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome.
Peach skin is extremely beneficial for health. Therefore, it is generally recommended not to peel peaches before consumption. The peel contains carotenoids and caffeic acid. These antioxidants have proven anti-cancer properties.
Peaches are also rich in another group of antioxidants – polyphenols. They also have anti-cancer properties, limiting the growth and spread of cancer cells. They have been shown to be particularly effective in preventing the development of breast cancer. Postmenopausal women who consumed two peaches or nectarines each day had a 41% lower risk of developing breast cancer over a 24-year period.
How to process peaches?
The best sellers are canned peaches or peach compote, not only in the Czech Republic, but also in many other countries. For that reason, it belongs to the basic range of supermarkets worldwide.
However, fresh peaches are the healthiest, followed by frozen and, last but not least, canned. If you buy canned peaches, choose ones that are:
- no added sugars
- pickled in its own juice or water
And how about homemade compote peaches? Read the article on canning peaches . In it, you will find a detailed procedure, but also tips on how to preserve without sugar or in a microwave oven.
They are suitable as a fruit base for lemonades or ice cream sundaes. It is also excellent in cakes. Get inspired by recipes for peach pies and try, for example, a peach pie with custard or an upside-down pie. And what about sweet rice pudding ? It is definitely not complete without canned peaches!
They are great not only for any kind of baking, but also for cooking! They are particularly excellent, for example, in salsas or fruity, spicy sauces. The recipe for peach jam, also known as marmalade , is definitely worth trying, which will put a summer smile on your face at any time of the year.
However, if you would rather bake with fresh peaches, try something original instead of a classic cake or bun. Sweet peach sandwich is an excellent alternative to the well-known banana bread. Similarly, it is very tasty with ice cream, but also as a breakfast with yogurt or peanut butter!
Peaches go very well with brown sugar, vanilla, honey, maple and date syrup, coconut, fennel, cinnamon, mint, ginger and poultry.
Nectarines are usually firmer than peaches, which is why they are popularly added to vegetable or cheese salads, where they act as a sweet but also crunchy element. Be inspired by the recipe for peach salad with spinach and goat cheese and try it in a version with nectarines.
Due to their firmness, nectarines are also much more suitable for cooking, sautéing, baking or grilling. Grilled nectarines are a very popular summer dish, especially during the grill itself, when they are served as a dessert – either alone or with ice cream.
Combine nectarines with goat and sheep cheeses, gorgonzola, basil, mint, cilantro, blackberries, currants, gooseberries, limes, pomegranates, pork, poultry and beef, fish and shrimp.
TOP summer recipe for grilled nectarines
Grilled nectarines are among the dishes you must try at least once in your life! Grilled nectarines are delicious in combination with sweet ingredients, but in restaurants you can also find them in light vegetable or pasta salads, most often with chicken and mayonnaise.
- olive or coconut oil
- 6-8 nectarines (ripe but firm)
- maple or agave syrup, or honey
- ground cinnamon
- cane sugar
- tin foil (necessary to preserve any juices/sauce produced during grilling)
- brandy or bourbon (optional)
- Wash the nectarines, cut them in half and pit them.
- Use the foil to make a tray – big enough to fit all the halved nectarines. Anoint it with oil.
- Spread the nectarines on a foil tray, cut side up.
- Drizzle lightly with syrup and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Pour a tablespoon of brandy/bourbon over each piece. In the case of the non-alcoholic version, pour the same amount of oil over the nectarines.
- Bend the edges of the foil up to create a bowl where the juice won’t leak out.
- Place on the grid of a hot grill and grill for 20 minutes (on medium heat and covered with a lid).
- The foil will be full of very hot juices, so remove it from the grill slowly and carefully.
- Serve the grilled nectarines still hot, preferably immediately after taking them off the grill, for example with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
A general rule of thumb when choosing peaches is that the sweeter they smell, the more ripe they are. Ripe peaches will keep at room temperature for about one week. If you need to keep peaches longer, store them in the refrigerator. The cold will stop the natural ripening of peaches and thus, of course, rot.
Peaches can also be frozen to extend their shelf life for up to six months. Fresh lemon juice should be sprinkled on the peaches immediately after cutting them, so that the flesh does not turn brown due to the frost.
How are peaches and peach trees grown?
Peach trees thrive mainly in temperate climates, tropical or subtropical areas do not suit them. Most varieties require at least 500 hours of cold, specifically a temperature of no more than 10 °C.
Peach trees generally tolerate temperatures down to -30 °C, they only have problems with frost in spring. They bloom early in March, and if the temperature drops below -4 °C during this period, the flowers will freeze and the whole crop with them.
In order for peaches to ripen, they need long-term summer heat (at least one month) with temperatures around 25-30 °C.
Peach trees live up to 20 years in ideal conditions. However, the average lifespan is only around 7 years and most trees do not start producing peaches until their third year of life/growth.
Which variety to choose? The tastiest peaches:
- Dixired: an early variety with yellow flesh, originally from the USA, which ripens in early August.
- Favorita Morettini: an early variety with yellow flesh, ripening at the end of July and originally from Italy.
- Redhaven: the most cultivated variety in the world, also popular with growers in the Czech Republic. This is a mid-early variety that has yellow flesh and ripens in mid-August.
- Cresthaven: another popular variety with yellow flesh. It ripens very late, usually at the end of September.
Some varieties are only suitable for large gardens (such as Cresthaven) because they reach a large height. However, most varieties do not grow to such dimensions, so they can be grown anywhere, even in smaller gardens.
When to pick peaches?
The very popular Redhaven variety thrives mainly in the wine regions of Moravia, where it usually ripens during the first week of August. However, peaches ripen faster during extremely warm weather; they can thus be harvested as early as the third week of July.