Peaches: The World’s Most Popular Drupe

shutterstock 2138593645 scaled
Peaches are a delightfully sweet, juicy drupe with classic fuzzy skin. They have a lovely flavor, with tender yellow flesh and vibrant red and orange skin like a sunset. Whether you eat them like an apple or bake them into a summery peach pie, there’s no disputing that the peach is one of the most popular drupes on the planet.

What is a Peach?

The peach (Prunus persica) grows from deciduous fruit trees in warmer climates and is one of the most popular stone fruits globally. The peach has notable characteristics like fuzzy skin and juicy yellow flesh. Peach trees with a gene variant cause them to have smooth skin, and these types of peaches are called nectarines. The taste between peaches and nectarines is identical, but nectarines don’t have the classic peach fuzz.

The word peach, or pêche, hails back to its country of origin, Persia. The ancient Romans referred to this fuzzy fruit as the Persian apple. The scientific name Prunus persica translates to Persian plum due to peaches’ many similarities with plums.

The History of Peaches

When you think about peaches, you likely imagine Georgia peaches. While the peach is a popular American fruit in the South, its original home is Persia. Archeologists unearthed peach pits in western China that date back almost 6,000 years ago! Historical records depict the use of peaches back to the 10th century.

In some ancient writings, peach blossoms helped fight off evil spirits and were very important when ringing in the Chinese New Year. Residents would hang peach blossoms on the doorways to keep the evil spirits away and promote good luck. While America has a lot of peach growers and harvesters in the southern states, China leads the pack as the biggest exporter and cultivar of fresh peaches globally.

shutterstock 1654605004
Always be sure to remove the pit at the center of a peach before cooking with them.

What Does a Peach Taste Like?

The flavor of a fresh peach is unmistakable. It has subtle sweet and sour notes, with the sweetness intensifying as the fruit ripens. They’re sweeter than apricots, with just a touch of tartness. Perfectly ripe peaches are intensely juicy, soft, and almost melt in your mouth.

With over 300 different types of peaches grown in the U.S., the flavors vary from sweet to tart, depending upon the variety. Some peach varieties include Freestone, Clingstone, Elberta, Heirloom, Redhaven, and White Peaches.

The best way to enjoy a ripe peach is right off the tree, but it’s also an excellent cooking ingredient in tasty treats like cobbler, peach pie, and jams. It even goes great with pork! Once cooked, many sour notes fade into an intense sweetness and delicate peachy floral notes.

How to Tell When a Peach is Ripe

Determining when a peach is ripe is as easy as (peach) pie! Here are a few quick ways to determine when your peach is at the peak of ripeness.

ColorUnripe peaches have a green color similar to a Granny Smith apple. As it matures, it turns orange or a dark shade of red. A perfectly ripe peach has deep red in places where it hit the sun and shades of orange that weren’t in direct sunlight.
FirmnessGo ahead, give it a little squeeze! If it’s soft to tough and gives a little, it means it’s ripe. If the outside is firm and doesn’t give, it’s not ready yet.
SmellWhen a peach is ripe, it’s bright and fragrant. When you smell a ripe peach, it emits a bright aroma. It still needs a little more time if you can’t smell anything.
BruisingPeaches are gentle creatures and bruise very easily. A peach will likely have some bruising, but it doesn’t mean the fruit has turned.

Note: When picking out a peach, avoid peaches with flat spots, green dots on their skin, a lot of bruising, or wrinkled skin. Slight bruising is expected since they’re so delicate, but too much bruising may indicate it’s overly ripe.

Cooking with Peaches

Peeling peaches for peach pie can be a long, time-consuming process. However, there is a quick and easy way to shed its very thin and stubborn skin!

  1. Bring a large stock pot to a boil. Place a few peaches into the pot, but not so many that it lowers the temperature of the water.
  2. Once the peaches are in the pot of boiling water, blanch for one minute. Blanching cooks the skin but ensures your peaches won’t become mushy.
  3. After 1 minute, remove the peaches and place them into an ice bath.
  4. Once peaches are cool enough to handle, peel away the skin.
  5. Slice peaches in half and cut out the sizeable peach pit using a knife.
shutterstock 1949143699
Peach cobbler is an American classic and is one of the best ways to cook with peaches!

Cooked peaches are excellent in various dishes, from sweet desserts to savory entrees. 

Grilled Pork and Peaches: This is a classic pairing – the salty, savory flavors from the pork pair perfectly with the floral sweetness of fresh peaches.

Peach Cobbler: For a sweet treat, you can’t go wrong with a good old-fashioned peach cobbler that pairs the sweetness of peaches with brown sugar and cinnamon.

Air-Fried Peaches: If you want to celebrate the flavor of fresh peaches, bust out your handy air fryer and fry them with a bit of butter and cinnamon in this air fryer peach recipe. 

How to Store Peaches

Peaches are climacteric fruit, meaning they continue to ripen after harvest. If your peaches need to ripen, leave them on the counter for a few days to mature. Once they ripen, the best way to store them is in the refrigerator.

To ensure that your peaches stay fresher for longer, keep them in a bag and away from other fruits that will cause them to spoil quicker. Peaches stored away from other fruit in the fridge have a shelf life of up to five days.

Peaches are also a good candidate for freezing. Place peeled peaches in a freezer-safe container or bag and squeeze out as much of the air as possible. You can keep frozen peaches in the freezer for 8-10 months.

Nutritional Benefits of Peaches

A medium-sized peach has about 50 calories and a lot of healthy nutrition. They are a great source of beneficial vitamins and minerals like Vitamin C and antioxidants. While all fresh fruit has its nutritional bonuses, peaches offer a higher potassium level and certain compounds that benefit your health.

In some studies, scientists have found a specific type of compound (called polyphenol) in peaches that can help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol. In addition to the higher potassium levels, peaches help promote a healthy heart and reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

Where to Purchase Peaches

Most supermarkets sell peaches year-round, although they’re far from the peak of freshness. If you find peaches in the off-season, they’re often tiny and not very sweet.

To find perfectly juicy, sweet peaches, it’s best to start looking when they come into the season. Peach harvesting season in most areas is between May and September. For the best peaches, opt for local farmer’s markets or fruit stands for the highest quality peaches.

Tara Summerville

Tara Summerville is a freelance writer with a deep love for food. She loves baking sweet treats and experimenting with different fruits and veggies for her morning smoothies. When she’s not writing, she loves powerlifting, baking, gardening, playing video games, and caring for her cats!

Recent Posts