Louisiana peaches at their peak

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  6/25/2008 1:33:45 AM

(News You Can Use Distributed 06/25/08)

The peak of the Louisiana peach season runs from mid-June until mid-July. Don’t miss out on this healthful window of opportunity, advises LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.

Peaches are low in fat, saturated fat and calories (only 58 calories in one that’s medium size). Peaches are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, niacin and potassium. They also are sodium-free.

The fruit is easy to eat. Just wash it, remove the seed and enjoy. If you want to remove the fuzz, Reames says simply put the peach in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds and then immediately move it into cold water. The peel will slip right off.

“How easy is that?” she asks.

The nutritionist offers three different ways to prepare the fruit:

– Add sliced peaches to hot or cold cereal or to a mixed green salad.

– Make peach salsa by blending together peaches, strawberries and bananas. Eat with baked corn chips.

– Mash peaches into low-fat yogurt and freeze in ice cube trays with a straw in the middle to eat as a “peachsicle.”

Types of peaches include clingstone (flesh clings to the stone), freestone (flesh pulls away from the stone easily) or semi-freestone. Most early season peaches are clingstone.

“Peach flesh may be yellow or white,” Reames says.

When buying peaches, the nutritionist recommends selecting those that are firm-ripe or becoming a bit soft. The base color of the skin between the red areas should be yellow or creamy. Hard peaches with a green background are immature and will not ripen; they will shrivel instead.

High quality fruit have a tight, fresh-looking skin free of bruises and disease and insect damage. A pound of peaches equals three or four medium peaches, 2 cups of sliced peaches or 1 1/2 cups pulp or puree.

Store firm-ripe peaches at room temperature and away from direct sunlight until they are fully ripe. Spread them uncovered in a single layer in a cool place. They should become fully ripe and soft in three to four days. Refrigerate soft peaches, and use them within three to five days for best quality. To enjoy peaches all year, freeze or can them.

Darkening can be a problem when a recipe calls for peeled peaches. You can prevent darkening by placing them in a mild salt solution (1 1/2 teaspoons salt to 1 quart water) or use 1 1/2 tablespoons commercial ascorbic acid mixture in 1 quart water. A little lemon juice enhances the peach flavor in most recipes and helps prevent darkening.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture, ascorbic acid is available in three different forms:

– Pure powder. This is seasonally available in the canning supply section in the supermarket. One level teaspoon of pure powder weighs about 3 grams. Use 1 teaspoon per gallon of water as a treatment solution.

– Vitamin C tablets. These are economical and available year-round in many stores. Buy 500-milligram tablets; crush and dissolve six tablets per gallon of water as a treatment solution.

– Commercially prepared mixes of ascorbic and citric acids. Mixes are seasonally available in the supermarket. Sometimes citric acid powder is sold, but it is less effective in controlling discoloration. If you choose to use these products, follow the manufacturer's directions.

Freezing peaches with sugar

Add 1/4 teaspoon ascorbic acid or 1 teaspoon commercial ascorbic acid mixture to each cup of sugar. Mix 1 cup sugar with 4 to 5 cups sliced peaches. Stir gently. Allow to stand about 15 minutes for syrup to form. Place in moisture/vapor-proof containers or freezer bags. Leave 1/2 inch of headspace. Crumple waxed paper on top of peaches in rigid containers to keep peaches under juice. For bags, fill and push out as much air as possible. Seal the container airtight, label it and freeze it.

Freezing peaches in sugar syrup

Dissolve 1 cup of sugar in 2 cups water for a medium syrup or 1 cup sugar to 3 cups water for a light syrup. Add 1/4 teaspoon ascorbic acid or 1 teaspoon ascorbic acid mixture to each cup of syrup. Fill freezer container one-fourth full of syrup. Slice peaches directly into container. Fill container, cover with syrup, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Place a piece of crumpled waxed paper on top, seal it airtight, label the container and freeze it.

Freezing peaches without sugar

Dissolve ascorbic acid or commercial ascorbic acid mixture in a little water. Sprinkle over peaches and stir, being sure the peaches are well-covered. Fill the container, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Place a piece of crumpled waxed paper on top, seal the container airtight, label it and freeze it. When serving, add artificial sweetener or sugar to defrosted peaches if desired.

Peaches also may be canned or made into preserves. If low-acid white or yellow peaches are used, special precautions must be taken to acidify them for canning.

For information about canning peaches or other peach information, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: www.lsuagcenter.com
Contact: Beth Reames (225) 578-3929 or breames@agcenter.lsu.edu
Editor: Mark Claesgens (225) 578-2939 or mclaesgens@agcenter.lsu.edu

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