The Straight Fuzz About Peaches

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About 48% of Americans consume less than one serving of fruit a day. This is a shame because fruits help lower the risk for heart disease and cancer and they are an excellent choice for those trying to lose weight. Ironically enough, from 1983 to 1999 the consumption of sugar and other sweeteners has increased by 30%. The average American consumes about 20 teaspoons of sugar a day!!?Fruits are an excellent substitute for those trying to quench a sweet tooth. With this in mind, we are featuring peaches for summer. Here are some tips to help you enjoy more of them.

Why should I eat them?
Peaches are a low-calorie source of the antioxidant vitamins A and C. They are high in fiber, especially pectin, a soluble fiber that helps to lower high blood cholesterol. The fuzzy fruit is also a source of flavonoids and beta carotene; these two compounds may help prevent the growth of certain cancers. New varieties of peaches are being developed that will yield even greater levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals.

Choose ’em and use ’em
While there are hundreds of varieties of peaches, they are classified into two categories: freestone, with a loose, easily removed pit, or clingstone in which the pit is harder to remove. Freestone peaches are usually sold fresh while the clingstones are reserved for canning, freezing and preserving.

Choosing peaches at the supermarket can be tricky because they are highly perishable and bruise very easily.

• Select peaches that have a yellow or creamy color, and that are fragrant, unblemished and not too hard.
• When gently squeezed, they should yield to pressure.
• Contrary to the belief of many, the red blush on peaches is not an indicator of ripeness.

Storing unripe peaches in a paper bag at room temperature for a few days will ripen them. (Peaches with a greenish color were picked before they matured and will never ripen.)

Once ripe, peaches can be stored in the refrigerator for a three to five days. However, it’s best not to buy more peaches than you plan to use right away. Rinse peaches in cold water just before using.

Peaches are very versatile and have many uses:

• Chop and add to baked goods such as breads or muffins
• Poach and serve as a simple dessert.
• Add to a skewer of meat and vegetables for grilling.
• Use them in salsas or chutney.
• Peaches can be preserved, canned, frozen and made into jams.
• They are delicious in salads or as a topping for breakfast cereals, pancakes or waffles.

Peaches will turn brown once they are peeled. To prevent this, toss them lightly in lemon juice if you plan to serve them later.

The story on fuzz
Peaches aren’t as fuzzy as they used to be. Due to the consumer’s desire for “fuzz-less” peaches, most commercially grown peaches are mechanically brushed once they are picked. Peaches at local markets will be fuzzier than those purchased in supermarkets.

Canned are okay, too

Canned peaches are comparable in nutrition to their fresh and frozen counterparts. They retain vitamins A and C throughout their canned life. Canned peaches can be substituted for fresh peaches in recipes such as pies, crisps and cobblers. Choose canned peaches that are in water or juice versus syrup because they will be lower in calories.

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By Beth Fontenot, MS, RD.

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