Peaches are the leading stone fruit crop grown in Texas, with an estimated one million or more trees planted around the state, and only half of those in commercial orchards of one acre or more (Texas A&M Extension).
Peaches come in different varieties. From deep yellow to white flesh with a pink blush, small and delicate to big as a baseball and barely fit in a grown man's hands, a basic distinction between peaches is in the stone: is it loose from the fruit (freestones), clinging to the fruit (clingstones), or somewhere in between (semi-freestones)? Generally, clingstone peaches are the first in the season as early as late April, followed by the semi-freestones in June and finally, freestones are ripe for the picking from early July into August. Anyone who’s ever tried to segment a cling peach undamaged from the stone, without squeezing half its juice out, is now probably marking their calendar for July.
Is my peach ripe?
When peaches are picked too early (for commercial distribution for instance) they ripen ‘along the way’ and never reach their full peach potential. A peach ripened on the tree yields a much tastier fruit, and it's probably the most convincing reason why you should buy peaches directly from a orchard stand or at the farmers market.
Smell a peach if you want to know if it is ripe: no smell is either unripe, or not much taste to the peach. Poking a peach will only bruise it. If you are not sure, ask the vendor as they will be able to tell you when it was picked and approximately how long they will last on your kitchen counter.
Freeze A Peach!
Having a ziplock in the freezer full of ripe peaches is such a treat, making it so easy to whip up a morning breakfast smoothie, peach salsa, peach cobbler or just defrost and eat as is.
Steps: cross each peach in the skin, blanch quickly and transfer to an ice water bath. Peel, cut in half, remove stone and slice (4-6).
To freeze the slices, place them in a single layer on a tray and put in the freezer. Once frozen you can collect them in a large ziplock bag.
Plan On Peach For Dinner
Texas peaches are, in a word, phenomenal. Even if it rains, or you’re stuck inside in freezing A/C: when you bite into a ripe Texas peach, licking lips and hands to get all that sweet juice that free-flows from the juicy fruit, for that moment alone summer is good, the sun shines and time is yours. Don’t hold back when you find them at the market (or better: buy a batch at an orchard stand). Use these recipes to turn them into a summer dinner!
Open with Chef Randy Evans' delectable cold peach soup. He shared it with Edible Houston for our summer 2015 issue. It is a magical mix of ripe peach, yogurt, sparkling wine, smoked paprika and a pinch of cayenne. Chef Evans tops the chilled peach soup with a peach relish and torn prosciutto.
Next, serve the peach salad that is in our Meat Matters issue right now. It's a refreshing salad that pairs ripe peaches with cherry tomatoes, basil and a good, artisanal mozzarella. There are some crispy bacon bits in there, too!
Grilled Peaches & Smoked Duck make for a main dish that has it all: sweet, tart, savory, smoky, fruity, juicy, meaty. You can smoke your own bird or take it easy and get a smoked duck from a local meat vendor. Tejas Heritage Farms is know for both fresh and smoked poultry, including smoked chicken and duck.
Alternatively, make a larger batch of Chef Evans’ Peach Relish: the savory-tart relish matches well with grilled, seasoned skirt steak. The recipe for the relish calls for sage leaves but works equally well with tarragon (Mexican Marigold) or basil, for instance. Whether it is Grilled Peach & Smoked Duck or Skirt Steak & Peach Relish: Add a tossed salad and rosemary roasted potatoes to complete your main course.
Peaches and cream is perhaps the easiest dessert and definitely one highlighting peach’s natural flavorful sweetness. It is literally just that: ripe peach served with whipped cream. You can vary all you like with this basic combination. If you’re looking to put a little effort into dessert, or are a fan of custard: go for Baked Peaches & Lemon-Ginger Infused Custard to finish off a peach perfect dinner.
Want to take a drive into the countryside and find an orchard peach stand? This website (insert: www.texaspeaches.com) has more information about different peach growers near Fredericksburg, and a map to find them!