Peaches are very popular fruit

July 31, 1991|By Steven Pratt | Steven Pratt,Chicago Tribune

Peaches are delicious and abundant this year. Here are some peachy facts.

* The peach is the third most purchased fruit in the country behind bananas and apples, and the yearly consumption is pretty consistent.

* One peach (five ounces) has about 50 calories. It is high in potassium (210 milligrams), low in sodium, has no fat, about 3.3 grams of fiber, lots of fructose and is sweeter-tasting than a plum or apple. Peaches are 80 percent water by weight, juicier than apples. As they ripen they become sweeter because the acid level is reduced.

* Like orange trees, fecund peach trees are grafted to hardier rootstocks to make them more resistant to climate, disease and pests.

* It takes a peach tree about five years to start bearing commercially acceptable fruit, and then it will bear for 18 to 20 years. The environment has a lot to do with productivity. Drought and other extreme climatic factors can cause stress even while the trees are dormant, before they blossom.

* Peaches and nectarines are similar but distinct fruits. The smooth-skinned nectarines are not just fuzzless peaches. Peaches and nectarines originated in Asia thousands of years ago, but nectarines in their original forms were not very sweet or juicy, so certain peach characteristics were bred into them.

* In cling peaches the seed or stone is firmly attached to the flesh and is difficult to separate. Because this makes it difficult to slice, especially when canning, growers have bred freestone and semi-freestone varieties in which the seed separates easily from the pulp. Almost all commercially produced peaches now are freestone or semi-freestone.

* There are dozens of varieties of peaches, most are indistinguishable from one another except by trained observers. One exception is the white or Babcock peach, a lightly blushed, more pastel version of the traditional peach with a sweeter flavor, flowery aroma, softer skin and less robust taste. Babcocks come mostly from California during June and July.

* Like apples, peaches will oxidize and darken when exposed to air after peeling and slicing. To prevent this, dip them in a mixture of one tablespoon of lemon juice and one cup of cold water.

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