Native to China and a favourite fruit of its emperors, the peach was considered a symbol of immortality, fertility, luck and friendship. It is found in Chinese paintings and poetry dating as far back as 550 BCE. When wild peaches spread to the Middle East, the Romans named them “Persian apples” and introduced them to the rest of Europe.
A member of the Rosaceae family, peaches are related to almonds, cherries and plums. Nectarines are considered smooth-skinned peaches. There are two types of peach: freestone (where the flesh separates easily from the stone) and clingstone (the flesh clings to the stone) and within these two types there are white- and yellow-fleshed varieties. The yellow-fleshed variety is the sweeter one.
November to March.
Choose peaches that are firm and plumpbut yield to gentle pressure. Avoid both hard and soft, bruised peaches. Colour indicates variety more than ripeness.
You can ripen peaches at room temperature for a couple of days. Refrigerate ripe peaches for two or three days.
Wash all peaches well before eating. To halve, cut around peach with a sharp knife, then twist both halves in opposite directions.
Peaches are a good source of potassium, vitamin C, carotenes, flavonoids and fibre. They also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which are said to help prevent age-related macular degeneration.
A tasty condiment that goes well with grilled chicken, roast pork or your favourite curry, Peach chutney is also delicious in a ham or turkey sandwich.