Peaches are considered a “drupe” fruit in the culinary world.
A drupe is a single seeded, fleshy fruit with a soft, juicy layer surround a hard endocarp, the seed protecting part.
Besides peaches, apricots, plums, cherries and mangoes are all drupe fruit.
In the culinary world, fruits are usually high in sugar content, however, this is counterbalanced by their rich load of fiber, vitamins and antioxidants, often concentrated in the skin of the fruit.
Peaches are a wonderful ingredient due to their versatility in the kitchen.
Propagation of the Peach
The peach is a deciduous tree (meaning every fall, these trees lose their leaves) native to Northwest China, where it was first domesticated and cultivated.
The Persians took it to Europe and eventually, the New World.
Despite Georgia being known as “the peach state,” South Carolina actually produces three times more peaches per season.
The peach has propagated hundreds of varieties which vary in color and flavor.
In general, peaches are either FREESTONE, which means the pit falls easily away from the flesh; or a CLINGSTONE, where the fruit adheres to the pit.
Most supermarkets only carry FREESTONE peaches, while the firmer CLINGSTONES are widely used for commercial purposes.
In the south, roadside stands appear from May to October with fresh peaches.
When buying peaches…
- smell the fruit. It should have a pleasant, intense fragrance
- really look closely at the fruit. Peaches bruise easily, avoid any with soft spots or signs of greening.
- peach skin can range from a pink-blushed creamy white to a red-blushed yellow
Under-ripe peaches can be ripened by placing them in a paper bag, with an apple, at room temperature for a couple of days. Make sure to pierce the bag in several places, allowing air movement.
If peaches are ripe, refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to 5 days. Bring to room temperature before eating, as it will intensify a peach’s flavor.
Nutrition of a Peach
Peaches contain Folic Acid, Calcium, Vitamins A and C.
The yellow pigment of a peach comes from beta-carotene, an antioxidant; which research has shown improves our immune-system and lowers the risk of developing cancer.
Of course, as with any other fruit, regardless of the cooking method – heat destroys cell walls inside the fruit, which changes the texture, color, taste, starch and nutrient content.
However, certain ingredients can be modify, or help control the breakdown. Sugar, molasses, water, salt or – as in the recipe below – maple syrup can have some effect.
Peaches in a Recipe
Because of their fuzzy skins, peaches are often peeled before eating or cooking.
This can be done easily by blanching the peach in boiling water for about 30 seconds; turn them over a few times; then, immediately plunging it into an ice filled cold water bath. Remove the peach from the cold water after about 1 – 2 minutes.
Slip the skin off with your fingers or a pairing knife.
If the skin is resistant, repeat the process.
Discoloration will occur fairly quickly after a peach is cut or peeled.
Removing the pit from a peach is easier if you cut the fruit from the stem to the tip (blossom end), all the way to the stone (pit).
Twist the halves in opposite directions and lift out the stone.
If the peach is unripe, use a spoon to scoop out the stone.
Planting a Peach Tree
Peaches will grow in zones 4 to 9, but do particularly well in zones 6 and 7. Make sure to check your hardiness zone here.
Peach trees are self-pollinating, therefore, you only need one to bear fruit.
Peach trees have very specific chilling requirements in order to break dormancy and begin flowering, so make sure to check with your local extension agency to see which variety is appropriate for your area.
Young saplings or more established trees, are ideal for spring planting. Peaches do not usually grow from pure seed.
When choosing a location, make it a sunny spot with deep, well-drained soil, and a pH of around 6.5.
Sandy loam or clay loam is best.
Dig a hole, a few inches deeper and wider than the root ball.
Gently loosen the root ball and set it on a small mound of soil at the bottom of the hole, centering it in the hole. Then, refill the hole.
Scatter one cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer at least 18 inches away from the trunk of newly planted trees.
As the tree matures, feed it a 10-10-10 fertilizer twice a year — once in early spring and again in early summer, throughout its lifespan.
Typically a peach tree needs about 36-inches of water annually; therefore, water accordingly with your climate.
Many commercial peach farmers trim their trees to about 15 feet tall, producing a wider canopy and making it easier to reach the fruit.
It is necessary to “thin” the fruit, in order to encourage growth.
Pluck off excess fruit so that you are left with a fruit every 3 to 5 inches or more.
Sweet Peach Grilled Chicken
During my recipe testing for this dish, I discovered the peaches I bought at the store, the same day, were not ripe.
I strongly suggest buying your peaches a few days ahead of making this recipe, and follow the ripening suggestions in this post for optimum flavor.
I sprinkled a little cinnamon on the peach halves, which were grilled. This was totally unnecessary as the peaches were plenty sweet without the cinnamon.
This recipe is a great way to use up all your summer peaches. It is refreshing and light for a weeknight meal.
Very easily adjustable for more servings.
If you do not want whiskey in the recipe, try the Smoky Peach Whiskey Sauce referenced above.
Sweet Peach Grilled Chicken
- 3/4 cup maple syrup
- 2/3 cup Dark Corner Distillery peach whiskey
- 2 cups of diced fresh peaches
- 3 whole fresh peaches
- 3 Tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1/2 tablespoon parsley flakes
- 2 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 4 skin-on bone-in chicken thighs (one per person)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon optional
- In a Vitamix, or blender, puree the 2 cups of diced peaches and water. Mixture will be thick.
- In a saucepan, add the syrup, whiskey, and peach puree. Put on medium heat, just till it begins to boil.
- Turn heat to simmer and add the onion powder, garlic powder, salt and red pepper flakes (optional, see notes). Stir and simmer for about 3-4 minutes.
- Whisk in cornstarch. Cover sauce pan and cook an additional 5 minutes.
- Remove sauce from heat and allow to cool for about 15 minutes.
- Marinate the chicken by placing in a heat proof container. Do not use a zip lock bag as the sauce will be hot. Place chicken flat in dish. Reserve about 1/2 cup of sauce and pour the remaining sauce over chicken. Cover and place in refrigerator for one hour.
- Preheat and clean your grill.
- Prepare the remaining 4 peaches (one per person). Make a small incision at the stem end of the peach, circling the circumference of the peach, cutting it in half. Pry the peach open and remove the pit with a spoon.
- Brush the chicken and peaches with the reserved sauce and place the chicken, skin side down on the grill; and peaches, cut side down on the grill.
- Grill the chicken for 10 minutes, then flip. Glaze again and continue to cook till reaching an internal temperature of 162º. Flipping as necessary and reapplying sauce.
- Flip the peaches once grill marks appear. Grill peaches an additional 5 minutes. Remove.
- Once chicken is at 162º, place on a platter and tent with foil, allowing the chicken to rest for about 10 minutes. It will reach 165º, a safe eating temperature.