Peaches are the most widely-grown stone fruit in the world. They are native to China, but have been harvested in Canada since the 1780s. Of the varieties grown here in Canada, 80% are for fresh consumption and have soft, sweet, juicy flesh while the other 20% have a firmer, almost rubbery flesh that makes them suitable for machine processing.
Peaches can be categorized into three types based on the way their flesh clings to the pit. In North America, peaches have softly yellow coloured flesh, but white fleshed peaches are favoured in Asia.
The flesh of clingstone peaches clings firmly to their pits, or stones. They have a soft texture, are juicier and sweeter than other peach varieties and the commercial industry uses clingstones for preparing canned peaches. These also tend to be the preferred variety for jellies and jams.
Freestone peaches have flesh that easily comes away from their pits, making them most ideal for eating fresh. Though not as juicy or sweet as a clingstone peach, freestones are good for baking as well, and are perfect for eating fresh and for all your preserving needs.
Available: mid August to end of September.
Semi-freestone Peaches: Semi-freestones are a combination of freestone and clingstone peaches and flesh partially clings to the pit making them excellent for eating out-of-hand. They’re sweet and also ideal for canning or baking.
Available: mid July – August.
How to Buy:
Select firm, blemish-free fruit with a sweet smell and creamy or yellow background. Avoid greenish fruit and wrinkled skins. The blush on the fruit doesn’t represent its ripeness; rather it is an indication of the variety. Peaches will continue to ripen after they’re picked, so don’t be afraid of selecting firm fruit.
In addition to enjoying fresh peaches in the summer, there are plenty of options for year-round consumption of canned, dried or frozen peaches and peach juice.
How to Store:
Store firm fruit on the counter at room temperature and out of direct sunlight in a loosely closed paper bag for a day or two. When they are fragrant and the flesh yields to slight pressure they’re considered ripe. Plastic bags are not suitable for this as they trap moisture and air which can cause spoilage.
Once ripe, move to a single layer in the crisper bin of your fridge for up to one week. Do not wash until just before eating.
Ripe peaches can be peeled, sliced and frozen in a single layer on a cookie sheet before being transferred to a sealed container or freezer bag. Keep for up to 6 months. Frozen peaches are great additions to oatmeals and yogurts, compotes, baking and smoothies.
How to Prepare:
Peaches can be canned, dried, frozen or eaten fresh. Gently wash fruit under cool water before eating. Easily peel peaches by submerging them in boiling water for 30 – 60 seconds and then rubbing the skin off with a towel or cloth.
Sliced peaches will oxidize, similar to apples. To prevent browning, coat sliced peaches with lemon juice or fruit preservative immediately after slicing.
Peaches are excellent in sweet preparations and desserts but also blend well in savoury dishes as they make excellent glazes, sauces and toppings for everything from pizza to salad.
Peaches are excellent sources of Vitamin’s A, C and E.
How They Are Grown:
Peach trees in Canada live 10-20 years, bearing fruit after 2-3 years. They are the least hearty stone fruit tree and will die in temperatures below -23C. Because of this, Canadian peach orchards are limited to Ontario, where 80 percent of Canadian peaches come from; and in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, where 18 percent are grown. Peaches do not do well in Quebec because of the colder temperatures.
Ripe peaches are handpicked from the trees to prevent bruising and damage. Not all the peaches on a tree ripen at the same time and so workers will harvest the fruit over the course of a few weeks each season.
Peaches that are processed into canned peach slices or jams are sliced, pitted, washed and peeled by specialized machines.
Canadian Crop Available: Mid-July to Mid-September.