Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Peach Varieties and Uses

Before I moved to the southeast, I thought a peach was a peach was a peach. And in Minnesota they all seemed to come from California or Chile. They were hard to buy because they’d look great in the grocery store but invariably be dry or tasteless when I got them home. To be honest, I probably bought only about a dozen peaches in my life before moving to South Carolina. Now I live just “up the road a piece” from Springs Farm. I can go pick peaches myself or just stop in and buy a basket of fresh-picked peaches by the basket.
But what really has stunned me is the number of varieties of peaches and nectarines. Springs Farm of Fort Mill grows and sells 29 varieties of peaches and nectarines from June 1 to September 1. When you go to one of their farm stands, you can request a card that shows the variety names and when they are expected to be ripe.
Generally speaking, peach varieties are sorted into three different categories: clingstone, freestone, and semi-free. Clingstone peach flesh adheres to the pit; freestone fruit breaks away from it easily. Semi-free is a happy medium. Clingstone peaches tend to be best for jams, jellies and pickling. Freestone peaches are great for just eating fresh, freezing and using in recipes. Semi-free are good for all uses.

Besides yellow-fleshed peaches, there are white peaches and nectarines to consider. They tend to be sweeter than yellow ones, but the flavor is more delicate. Be careful using them in recipes. They can be easily overpowered if used in recipes with other strong flavors. Last summer I ruined a batch of organic white peaches by using Mexican vanilla with them in peach ice cream. Next time I’ll stick with a non-Mexican vanilla, and I may halve the amount, as well.
Place firm peaches on the counter for a day or two to ripen. You can hurry them along by putting them in a brown paper bag, but check them every few hours because they can go bad quickly. Once they are ripe, peaches can be moved to the refrigerator, where they will keep for about a week. Sliced peaches can be kept from browning by sprinkling them lightly with Fruit Fresh®, which can be found in your grocer’s canning section.

Springs Farm Peach Stand on Highway 160 and 21 Bypass, and their Farm Market on Springfield Parkway are open seven days a week. The Farm Market is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sundays. The Peach Stand is open until 9 p.m. Sunday though Friday and until 10 p.m. on Saturday. Opening hours vary. Call them at 803.547.7563. They also have a website with internet mail order available. Their address is http://www.springsfarm.com/. They do a fantastic job packing peaches for shipping.
Now that I’m a Carolinian, I can definitely agree with author George du Maurier, who said “An apple is an excellent thing, until you have tried a peach.”

Information for this article was harvested from http://www.gapeaches.com, the website for Dickey Farms of Musella, GA.

For The Lancaster News

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