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Peaches!

Sweet, succulent, super-sensational summertime snack

Aromatic, tender, juicy and sweet, fresh peaches are a summer treat. The fragrance and flavor of fruit harvested nearby are irresistible as the juice trickles down your chin.

True, our peaches aren’t really local — because peaches don’t grow in the cool Adirondack climate or even in nearby Champlain and St. Lawrence valleys. Our most “local” peaches come from western New York orchards in Wayne and Ontario counties, along the shores of Lake Ontario. But they taste so much better than peaches shipped from Georgia and even New Jersey. Those may taste great in Georgia — but they’re often harvested unripe and shipped in refrigerated trucks. They are hard as rocks when you buy them and become mealy and bland as they ripen.

Peaches are native to northern China. About 2000 BCE, the Chinese began cultivating the wild fruit. The Chinese thought peaches impart mystical qualities like immortality, longevity, fertility, luck, abundance and protection on those who consume them, so they became known as the “fairy fruit.”

Peaches made their way west to Iran. From there, they were introduced to Europe, where Romans called them Persian apples. Romans spread them farther west to France and Spain; in the 1600s Spaniards brought the fairy fruit to the New World. The American South provided ideal growing conditions, and the fuzzy fruit quickly took hold. William Penn wrote that “there was not an Indian plantation without them,” and Thomas Jefferson planted them on his Monticello estate in 1802.

When peaches made their way across the continent to California, two farmers, A. F. Abbott and Joseph Phillips, developed a variety of clingstone peaches that held its texture and flavor when canned. Today California produces more peaches than Georgia, where peach is the state fruit. Most of the California crop is processed for canning.

With only 35 calories in a medium peach, the fruit is nutritionally rich and an excellent source of dietary fiber and potassium, as well as vitamins A, C, E, folic acid and some B vitamins. A little calcium and zinc, as well as many antioxidants and phytonutrients, are also present. Easily digested and diuretic, their high water content makes them refreshingly thirst-quenching on a hot summer day.

Take advantage of fresh peaches while they last. In their natural state, no nutrients have been extracted and nothing harmful has been added — a peach is a perfect snack or dessert as is.

In addition to just eating them, peaches are great in smoothies, fruit salads and melba. They can be baked in muffins, crisps, cobblers and pies.

In order to use them in baking or preserve for the winter by freezing or canning, you will need to peel them. Place them in a wire basket (like those used for deep frying), bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, and dunk the basked of peaches. Remove and peel.

When you’ve had your fill of plain peaches, try them with butter pecan ice cream or Peach Melba. Blend into a smoothie. Add to a salad.

Fresh Peach Melba

The original Peach Melba was created in 1892 or 1893 by Auguste Escoffier at London’s Savoy Hotel. It combines peaches and ice cream with a berry liqueur sauce. We often eat it without the sauce.

Ingredients:

3-4 ripe peaches

3-4 scoops ice cream (I like butter pecan or maple walnut but French vanilla or peach are good too)

2 Tablespoons chopped toasted nuts (walnuts, pecans or almonds)

whipped cream (optional)

Directions:

Rinse peaches. Quarter, discard pits, and place into 2 serving bowls. Top each peach with a scoop of ice cream, sprinkle with toasted nuts, and garnish with whipped cream if desired. Makes 3-4 servings.

Optional berry sauce: 1 cup berries (rasbperries, blackberries, blueberries, currants — or combination), 2 teaspoons maple syrup or honey, 1 tablespoon berry liqueur. Combine berries, honey, zest and liqueur in a saucepan. Heat on low, mashing with fork until combined, warm, and spongy.

Breakfast Peach Muffins

Take advantage of cooler weather to make these delicious muffins.

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour (or part whole wheat)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup maple syrup or honey

1/3 cup butter

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup plain yogurt (or peach yogurt)

2 peaches

1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, optional

Directions:

Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a mixing bowl. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In saucepan, heat maple syrup or honey with butter. Stir. Remove from heat; beat in egg, vanilla and yogurt. Stir into flour mixture.

Slice peaches in half; remove pits and chop. Stir into batter along with chopped nuts, if using.

Spoon batter into 12 lightly oiled or paper-lined muffin cups, filling 3/4 full.

Bake on center rack in preheated oven for 25 – 30 minutes, or until tops are firm to the touch.

For a glossy look, brush each muffin, while still warm, with a little honey.

Store in an airtight container to keep fresh.

Servings: 12 large muffins

Author of the award-winning cookbook Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers Market, Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at yvonawrite@yahoo.com or on Facebook at words are my world.

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