Sweet and yet slightly tart, packed with flavor and juicy to the point of messy, a good peach is a beautiful thing. It’s no wonder that we say, “everything is peachy,” when things are going well.
Peaches come in a range of colors, shapes and flavors: freestone (the most common); white; and cling stone; as well as a range of smushed- looking designer donut peaches in blush, a gentle yellow, and a pale honeydew hue.
Peaches at the farm stand are a little enigmatic. Still firm to the touch, you have to trust that they will ripen soon. A nice peachy aroma and a little bit of give from a gentle squeeze are good signs, but there is still some possibility that they won’t ripen to perfection – you have to take a chance.
When successful, the rewards are well worth it.
Tree-ripened until almost ready, it only takes a few days on the kitchen counter for a local peach to reach its juicy, flavorful peak. For that reason, I like to have a plan when I buy.
More than once, I’ve been seduced by a basket of blushing peaches, only to have them go past their prime before I could eat them all.
There’s nothing better than a fragrant and flavorful peach so ripe and juicy that is has to be eaten over the kitchen sink. But it’s hard to put away a whole basket one at a time.
They are delicious sliced over morning cereal or diced into a bowl of yogurt, and with a roster of recipes, chances are good that no peaches will be wasted.
Sliced into a field lettuce salad, they add a fruity sweetness that pairs well with balsamic vinegar and some salty cheese.
Peaches and cream is a simple yet satisfying classic combo. Those same slices are just as good, maybe even better, over ice cream.
Peach shortcake is one of my favorites. Slice the peaches before they’re too ripe, toss them with a little sugar, and let them rest between lunch and dinner.
Fresh baked shortcakes like Rosa Mae’s are the best. They’re really just lightly sweetened biscuits, thirsty enough to soak up the peachy syrup that appeared when the fruit relaxed. It’s OK to use frozen biscuits, but making them from scratch gets easier with practice, and it’s a good skill to have. A dollop of whipped cream takes it from homey to luxurious.
Grilled peaches are popular these days as a garnish to grilled meats, in a salad, or for dessert. Cut a firm peach from pole to pole and twist out the pit. Lightly brush the cut side with oil or butter and put it on a hot grill until the peach softens sightly and the grill marks show. The natural sugar caramelizes adding complexity and a little char to the flavor.
Peaches are great in baked desserts, and this is where the usage really increases.
Marsha makes a delicious peach cobbler, the kind where a batter rises up around the fruit to make a custardy, cakey cocoon to surround the fruit. Peaches are equally good in a cinnamon-seasoned crisp as well as in a biscuit-topped cobbler or pandowdy.
I see peaches matched with raspberries in lots of baking recipes. The bright red berries add a dash of color and some welcome acidity to a peach pie, crisp, or cobbler. I can see why its a popular choice.
But the blueberry season actually aligns more closely with the peaches – not for the whole season, but at the start, for sure. They, too, contribute a contrasting color, but not the sharp tang of the raspberries. Don’t be afraid to add a handful of blues to any baked peach dessert.
The peach season is well under way at Lyman Orchards in Middlefield, CT Call their hotline, 860 349-6015, to get the details. They offer pick your own peaches as well as nectarines, pears, and apples along with a sunflower maize, baked goods, and lots of family fun.
Peaches can be a tough crop this far north, but when they’re good, they can’t be beat. Now’s the time.