For at least a couple of reasons, I have peaches on the brain.
One reason I’ve got peaches on the brain is, well, it’s peach season. And really, is there any other fruit that you so highly anticipate?
Okay, maybe a nectarine, but they’re practically the same thing so I’m really talking about both when I say that there’s probably no other fruit for which it makes such a difference to eat it in season. A peach any other time of year is just a shadow of what it possibly could be – so I say eat as many as you can right now so you’re not even tempted until this time next year.
Another reason I’ve got peaches on the brain is that over the weekend I taught a cooking class at Ramekins featuring stone fruits. We cooked, and ate, a lot of stone fruity delicious things, including Watercress Salad with Apricots, Almond-Crusted Brie, and Almond Vinaigrette; Bacon-Wrapped Filet Mignon with Fresh Cherries; and Pluot Galettes (a peachy version, Peach Galettes, is pictured in this post – I’ve posted my recipe for Peach Galettes here).
The students asked me how to pick good stone fruit, including peaches, and so in the name of eating a lot of good peaches while they’re still in season, I’m sharing my answer with you.
1. Shop at the farmers market
I don’t say this because I think the peaches are better at the farmers market, although I do. I say it because at the farmers market you can taste before you buy.
(I was thinking as I was shopping last week – they don’t let you taste the tomatoes or the eggplant or the cucumbers. But the fruit? Sample to your heart’s content!)
When you taste peaches, look for sweetness, of course, but also for acidity. I want the sweetness to be refreshing and clean, not cloying and sugary. And for that, a peach needs a little acidity, a little snap.
Generally speaking, white peaches – or the white versions of most any fruit – will be sweet, but they’ll be less acidic, so the sweetness won’t be quite as well balanced. What you get in exchange is a more delicate flavor, and sometimes a floral or aromatic quality, and that’s occasionally worth the trade.
But most of the time I want a big peach flavor, so I want a yellow peach.
The other thing to think about as you taste peaches is simply the nature of the peach flavor. Is it mango-like? Citrusy? Does it have creamy notes? Different types of peaches have difference nuances, so as you taste, notice the ones that speak to you.
One thing I don’t recommend thinking about as you’re tasting at the farmers market is texture. If the particular sample that the farmer put out is hard, but it has good flavor, buy it. Texture can be improved with a few days on the kitchen counter.
2. Shop with your nose
When you can’t taste peaches before you buy them, use your nose. In other words, if you’re walking by the peaches at the supermarket and you’re hit by their aroma, it’s a good time to buy a few.
If you’re not hit by their aroma, stop and pick up a few individual peaches and give them a sniff, looking for ones with a strong peachy smell. If you can’t find any, don’t buy any – if they don’t smell like peaches, they’re definitely not going to taste like peaches.
This smelling strategy, by the way, also works with strawberries.
It works with melons, too, which are just starting to come into season – so there’s something to look forward to after peach season.
For more great ways to enjoy peaches, check out these recipes on Weekly Greens, where peaches were last week’s featured produce item.