Summer is peak season for peaches, which are delicious on their own, in a chutney, salad, dessert or alongside meat and poultry dishes. Traditionally associated with immortality, this versatile fruit originated in China. There are two types of peaches: freestone (flesh is loosely set on the pit) or clingstone (flesh is firmly set on the pit).
The best tasting peaches smell sweet and are yellow with either a rosy blush or mostly red colouring to their soft, fuzzy skin. Avoid peaches with a green tinge, because they will not ripen much more. Peaches bruise easily; the perfect peach will be free of soft spots and yield to gentle pressure in your palm.
Unripe peaches can be kept at room temperature in a paper bag for a few days to improve the colour, but this will not improve the taste. Ripe, unwashed peaches should be refrigerated for three to five days.
A dieter's delight, summer peaches are juicy and sweet, offering wholesome nutrition at low caloric cost. One medium peach has 40 calories, offering a good source of vitamin A for healthy eyesight, as well as vitamin C, an antioxidant known to fight free radicals that damage cells and cause disease. Although higher in sugar and calories, canned and dried peaches are excellent source of fibre that can be added to yogurt, snack packs, baking and breakfast cereals.