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Peaches pack flavor with nutrition

By Greg Summers

Peach cobbler, ice cream, pie and breakfast cereal topper. Somehow, the mention of  such those tasty treats doesn’t match with a fruit loaded with fiber, great vitamins (A, C and E) and packed with nutrients.

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But that’s exactly what you get with a fresh peaches.

Somewhat sensitive and temperamental, peaches bruise easily and have to be handled with kid gloves.

When handled with care, a ripe South Carolina peach is summer at its best.

South Carolina peaches are at their peak between late June and August, with hotter weather producing larger, sweeter peaches.

This year’s crop has been one of the best in several years.

It’s a far cry from 2007 when a hard Easter freeze resulted in a 55 to 60 percent crop loss.

Rain falling at just the right time is always good for a fruit that’s almost 90 percent water.   

Handling peaches

There are two basic types of peaches.

Cling stone is, as the name implies; the flesh clings to the stone.

Chances are  you will never buy a fresh cling stone peach at a roadside stand. The canning industry takes them ripe from the fields and processes them within 24 hours of picking.

The other variety is the freestone, which can be easily loosened from the pit. When selecting peaches, don’t be fooled by the orange-pinkish blush on the sides.

Instead, look at the greenish, creamy area closest to the stems.

A green tint indicates that peaches may have been picked too far before their prime to ripen properly. A creamy yellow shade indicates the promise of a sweet succulent flavor.

Peaches should always be handled with care.

If they aren’t quite ripe, you can store them in a paper bag. However, don’t pile them on top of each other. That will cause bruising.

Once peaches ripen, they can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week depending on the degree of ripeness.

To get them at their peak of taste, bring them to room temperature so you can enjoy both flavor and aroma.

Freezing peaches

To freeze peaches, wash, cut out any bruised parts and then peel and slice.

Mix 2/3 cup granulated sugar into 1 quart prepared peaches, stirring until dissolved. Mix 1 teaspoon crystalline ascorbic acid (Fruit Fresh) with 1/2 cup water; add 1 tablespoon of solution to each pint of peaches. Package and freeze.

For sugar-free freezing, wash, peel and slice peaches. Pack into freezer containers and cover fruit with solution of 1 tablespoon cyclamate-type artificial sweetener (Sweet’N Lo) and 1/4 teaspoon ascorbic acid dissolved in 1 cup water.

Here are two peach recipes you want to try.

Peach Enchiladas, by Hettie Wilkerson of McBee, took first prize with the 2004 S.C. State Cook-off in West Columbia. It’s a tasty, kid-friendly dessert that’s perfect under a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

This Peach Salsa recipe comes from “Lucy’s Tasty Treasures,” an award-winning Clemson University children’s show that promotes healthy lifestyles. The salsa makes a great topper for grilled chicken, pork or fish and the jalapeño pepper content can be adjusted to suit individual tastes.

– Sources: Clemson Extension Service and USDA 

Peach Enchiladas

Ingredients

2 8-ounce tubes of crescent rolls

2 sticks butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Fresh, firm McLeod Farms peaches, peeled and quartered

1 12-ounce Mountain Dew

Directions

– Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

– Melt butter; add sugar and cinnamon.

– Unroll crescent dough and place one peach quarter on each crescent. Roll dough around peach from large end to small. Place in a 12-by-10-inch, 2-inch deep pan. Pour butter mixture over the rolls and then pour Mountain Dew on top. Bake in oven for 45 minutes.

– Recipe from McLeod Farms, www.macspride.com

Zippy Peach Salsa

Ingredients

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

2 fresh peaches, peeled and diced

1/3 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

2 teaspoons mince fresh cilantro

Directions

– In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, honey, garlic and ginger; let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in the peaches, peppers and cilantro. Refrigerate leftovers. Yield is 1 to 1 1/4 cups.

NOTE – When cutting or seeding hot peppers, use plastic or rubber gloves to protect your hands and avoid touching your face.

– Recipe from Clemson University Department of Food Sciences and Food Nutrition