Native to China, this fruit came to Europe (and subsequently to the New World) via Persia, hence its ancient appellation Persian apple. Throughout its evolution, the peach has propagated hundreds of varieties that vary greatly in color and flavor. In general, a peach falls into one of two classifications freestone, in which case the stone or pit falls easily away from the flesh, and clingstone, where the fruit adheres stubbornly to the pit. It's the freestones that are more commonly found in markets, while the firmer-textured clingstones are widely used for commercial purposes. The peach's velvety skin can range from pink-blushed creamy-white to red-blushed yellow and its flesh from pinkish-white to yellow-gold. Peaches are available from May to October in most regions of the United States. Southern hemisphere imports are frequently found in coastal cities during the winter. Look for intensely fragrant fruit that gives slightly to palm pressure. Because peaches bruise easily they should be thoroughly perused for soft spots. Avoid those with signs of greening. To ripen underripe peaches, place them in a paper bag, pierce the bag in several places, and set it aside at room temperature for a couple of days. Adding an apple to the bag will speed ripening because apples exude ethylene gas, which speeds the ripening process. Refrigerate ripe peaches in a plastic bag for up to five days. Bring to room temperature before eating. Because of their fuzzy skins, peaches are often peeled before eating. This can be done easily by blanching the peach in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then plunging it into icy-cold water. Canned peaches are available, sliced or in halves, packed either in sugar syrup or water. Frozen peach slices are also available, as are dried peach halves. Peaches contain both vitamins A and C.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.