Peaches are low in calories (about 30 per 100 g) and practically free of fat , therefore they are a fruit particularly suitable for dieters. The varieties of peaches found on the market are very numerous and vary in color and size . Some varieties of peaches, such as snuff boxes or saturnins, have more than other antioxidant compounds. Furthermore, the antioxidant content also varies according to the degree of maturation.
Peaches have little sodium but a lot of potassium (360 mg per 100 g), which together with magnesium, zinc and phosphorus makes them remineralizing.
Few carbohydrates, basically simple sugars (sucrose, fructose and glucose), which unlike the “complex” ones do not require digestion and are quickly absorbed to be used for energy purposes. But peaches are rich in many other nutritional properties.
The balance between sweetness and acidity makes peach one of the most invigorating and thirst-quenching summer fruits . Its health benefits are numerous. For example, the fiber contained in peaches regulates intestinal functions, both in diarrheal states and in cases of constipation. In the fiber there are pectin, a polysaccharide very common in all fruit, and sorbitol, a sort of carbohydrate alcohol, both soluble and indigestible. These substances have gelling and emollient properties and allow to regulate intestinal functions.
It is no coincidence that, in their millennial history, populations have celebrated them as a symbol of life, endeavoring to preserve them and enjoy their characteristics even beyond their seasonality.
Peaches are mostly consumed fresh, but also in the kitchen they are suitable for many uses.
Peaches: what they are
The peach tree ( Prunus persica (L.) Batsch) was definitively classified only in 1927, by Liberty Hyde Bailey (1858 – 1954).
It is a medium-height plant that can reach 8 meters. Depending on the variety, it presents different types of growth habit and growth, in relation to the growth angle of the branches and the size of the internodes. The stem is straight, smooth-scaly, with reddish-gray bark that tends to darken with age. The root system is very branched, rather expanded.
The leaves are lanceolate, with a crenate or indented margin. The upper page has a more intense green color than the lower one and the color of the main rib is associated with that of the fruit pulp: yellowish in the yellow-fleshed fruits and greenish-white in the white-fleshed ones.
Melba fishing: curiosity
Among the desserts with peaches, one of the best known is Melba peach .
The history of this dessert is fascinating , as it combines music and cuisine. In fact, the creator of the peach melba is Escoffier, one of the most famous chefs of all time, who revolutionized the art of haute cuisine and catering.
His source of inspiration was the Australian soprano Nellie Melba , to whom he dedicated this recipe, which now boasts more than a century of tradition.
The production of peaches in the world
Worldwide the major producers are:
- United States
Chinese origins: peaches symbol of immortality
For many centuries it was believed that the peach tree was originally from Persia, present-day Iran, where it can still be found in the wild.
From that geographical area the fruit took its botanical name ” Prunus persica L. “
The actual names of the fruit in the various languages spoken retain that very etymology (peach, perch, pêcher, peach, Pfirsich, pêssego, persikka, persic, persik etc.).
Today we know that the real origins are attributed to western China . Fossil stones have been found in some sites dating back to before the birth of mankind. The peach tree was said to have been domesticated already between 3300 and 2500 BC by the Chinese populations, who nourished a great veneration towards this plant identifying it with the symbol of immortality and spring, while the peach was like a fairy fruit, a symbol of good luck, wealth and long life.
Not surprisingly, the Chinese god of longevity is often depicted as emerging from a peach and for Buddhism peach represents one of the three fruits blessed together with cedar and pomegranate.
From China, already from about 300 BC, the peach tree arrived in Japan and then also in Asia Minor and the Middle East, in a period dated around the beginning of the second century BC. C.
Diffusion in the Mediterranean
How it landed in countries bordering the Mediterranean is uncertain. Some argue that it was the Egyptians who transferred it from Persia since the time of the Ancient Kingdom of the 6th Dynasty, over 2000 years before Christ, and that it came from here to Greece and then to Italy.
Instead, others believe, as reported also in Latin literature, that it was always imported from Persia as a consequence of the expansionist expeditions of the Macedonian king Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) and that from Greece it passed to Italy in the first century BC
That is the historical period in which the peach tree actually arrived in our peninsula, an era in which the expansion of the Roman Empire towards the Middle East was taking place and in which merchant exchanges with Greece were very flourishing. The passage of the peach trees into the France of the Gauls was almost contemporary.
Since the fall of the Roman Empire, the countryside in Europe was abandoned and with it the cultivation of peach trees , which survived only in conventual gardens or rarely in some fortified cities, both in Italy and in France.
Peaches in the Renaissance
Only after the year 1300, approaching the Renaissance, there was a resumption of agricultural activities and a new spread of the plant , especially in Italy, where the fruit was highly appreciated by the Tuscan noble families .
Under the Medici rule, there were already many varieties of peach trees cultivated and some scholars document their characteristics, such as Agostino Gallo (1499-1570), a distinguished agronomist of the Renaissance. Since then, crops have also expanded in France and Germany.
The peach tree also arrived in America, already immediately after Columbus’s travels, by the Spanish colonizers. He found conditions so favorable in Mexico that he quickly spread among the crops of the Atzeche populations, who called the peaches “Xocotlmelocoton”.
The commercial cultivation of peach trees in America had further impetus with the introduction of varieties from China in the early nineteenth century so that, in 1885, this stone fruit became the most important fruit-bearing fruit in California.
The peach tree has hermaphrodite flowers that bloom before the leaves appear. The corolla, composed of 5 separate petals, more or less wide, can vary from white to dark red, although, in most cultivars, the dominant color is pink, in all its gradations.
The species is self-fertile: pollination occurs in most cases by self-pollination, with high fertilization rates.
The time of flowering depends on the cold conditions necessary to meet the needs of each cultivar, but also on the accumulation of hours of heat available.
In the basis of the ‘cold requirement’ (CU), the peach cultivars are grouped into two categories :
- not subject to dormancy , with practically continuous growth ( evergreen ): they do not stop vegetative activity, therefore they are typical of tropical or sub-tropical climates, where they can bear fruit twice a year (in some areas of Central America).
- Subject to dormancy : in this group there are conventionally three bands of requirement in cold. Most of the commercial cultivars are grouped in the intermediate range (600 <CU <900).
There is no relationship between the time of flowering and ripening. Depending on the cultivar, the fruit can take between 55-60 and 270 days to reach maturity.
The fruit is a globular or elongated drupe, fleshy, juicy and sugary. It has a thin and velvety skin (epicarp) , or smooth, more or less adherent to the pulp that goes from greenish-white to yellow and carmine red. The pulp (mesocarp) is sweet and fragrant . The coloration of the pulp, white or yellow, is the most common commercial classification criterion of the cultivars.
The most important varieties of peaches
There are nearly 1,300 varieties entered in the Register of plant varietal. Each of these differs from the other in some aspects regarding the shape or the color or the collection period, or for other characteristics also of agronomic importance.
The main types
The varieties are commercially divided into 4 types:
- Peaches , with a velvety skin and yellow or white internal pulp
- Nectarine peaches (or nectarines), characterized by smooth skin
- Percoche , which have a more fleshy and chewy pulp, destined largely for the production of peaches in syrup
- Tobacco or Saturnine with an unmistakable flattened shape.
Color and texture of the pulp
Within the various types, peaches can also be distinguished by the color of the pulp which can be yellow or white : the former are characterized by a more or less sweet or sour taste, the latter are particularly fragrant, juicy, sweet and with taste aromatic, but they are very delicate due to their high polyphenol content.
There is also a “blood pulp” type , characterized by the abundant accumulation of anthocyanins in the mesocarp (phenomenon that we can find in both types, white and yellow); this character has no commercial significance, except in niche markets.
Finally, from the point of view of the pulp structure, at least three different phenotypes are distinguished:
- Dark (Melting): these cultivars are intended for fresh consumption. Their physiological ripening fruits are soft, rich in juice and, for this reason, they are precisely defined as “dark”.
- Duracino (Non Melting): retains a consistent pulp even at full maturity, undergoing only a slight tenderness. These cultivars are intended for syruping, but in several countries of the world they are also consumed fresh (Spain, Central and South America, Italy).
- Stony Hard (SH): it is very consistent and crunchy but, in practice, not easily distinguishable from the Duracino type and does not have a particular commercial importance.
Peaches: nutritional properties
Peaches also bring a good amount of soluble fiber , organic acids (including tartaric acid, malic acid, chlorogenic acid and citric acid), vitamins including carotenes (provitamin A) and vitamin C , both powerful antioxidants such as polyphenols , also present.
Finally, they contain a lot of water , about 90%, which makes them moisturizing, ideal to be enjoyed in summer.
Peaches: the health benefits
Peaches are considered a functional food , that is, according to the definition of the Commission on the science of functional foods in Europe ( FUFOSE ), “a food that has a beneficial effect on one or more functions in the body, beyond the nutritional effects, in a way that is relevant for improving the state of health and well-being and / or for reducing the risk of disease “.
The functionality of the peach derives mainly from the action of the many antioxidant compounds it contains and which are able to protect the body from oxidative damage attributable to free radicals, and therefore from many diseases. Let’s see what they are and what beneficial effects they ensure.
The positive effects of antioxidants
In addition to vitamin C , peach contains some organic compounds, which are particularly active against oxidizing agents. They are the carotenoids (precursors of vitamin A), which confer the yellow and orange color to the pulp, and the polyphenols (flavonoids), which among other things are responsible for the browning of the peach (especially the one with white pulp) due to reaction to shocks or when the pulp comes into contact with the air.
These antioxidants, present mainly in the skin as well as in the pulp , already act during digestion, neutralizing the radical compounds also produced by the bacterial flora and strengthening the defenses of the blood against the slags of cellular metabolism.
Antioxidants do not have a nutritional power and are absorbed only in very small quantities. So to enjoy their beneficial effects, it is important to eat fresh fruits and vegetables – the highly recommended 5 servings – every day instead of consuming them occasionally. Antioxidants protect the body from the onset of chronic, often very serious, diseases affecting the cardiovascular system and of a tumor nature.
The phenolic compounds and carotenoids present in peaches have preventive properties against the onset of tumors, including breast, lung and colon cancer .
Positive effects on heart and circulation
Some research has studied polyphenols in the prevention of risk factors for cardio-metabolic disorders and in cardiovascular diseases.
The results show that the consumption of peach juice protects against a combination of metabolic disorders , usually induced by obesity, including hyperglycaemia, insulin and leptin resistance, dyslipidemia and oxidation of low density lipoproteins.
In addition, thanks to antioxidants, they counteract the oxidation of bad cholesterol (LDL) by preventing the formation of atherosclerotic plaques , which are the cause of important cardiovascular diseases.
To the beneficial effects on the heart of antioxidants are added those of potassium , which makes peach an excellent draining agent that intervenes in the blood pressure regulation mechanism , lowering it by eliminating excess liquids.
Stronger immune system
Eat a peach of medium proportions (250 g) allows to employ about 15% of the daily requirement of vitamin C .
This vitamin, with a strong antioxidant power, has a very important role in strengthening the immune system and defending the body from infections.
Anti-aging action on skin and connective tissues
Vitamin C, flavonoids and beta-carotene or pro-vitamin A are involved in the production of collagen , which is a fundamental protein for the health of blood vessels and connective tissues .
Vitamin C, in particular, facilitates the absorption of the iron necessary for the synthesis of collagen, which helps maintain the elasticity of the skin even at a mature age and slows down the aging process .
For this reason, peach can be defined as an excellent anti-aging food .
The vitamin A and its precursor, the carotenoids , are valuable substances that allow a normal visual function . Vitamin A comes into play in the constitution of the structure of the retina of the eye and a deficiency of it can cause discomfort, from dry eyes to night vision deficiency.
They also contain a set of compounds that contribute with their properties to eye health, including lutein and zeaxanthin which protect the eye from cataract formation and macular degeneration, a pathology that occurs in old age.
Ally against inflammation
The antioxidants contained in peaches allow to reduce chronic inflammation , which is the cause of a large number of diseases.
In addition to the effects produced by antioxidants, here are other benefits that can be attributed to other components of fishing:
- They regulate intestinal transit: in diarrheal states they increase the consistency of the stool, while in cases of constipation they promote intestinal transit, especially if accompanied by a good water supply, making the stool softer, avoiding excessive fermentation and therefore swelling, purifying the colon from slags and toxins and promoting the stimulus to peristalsis and evacuation.
- They have restorative, toning and purifying effects: the peach pulp has refreshing and detoxifying properties thanks to the presence of calcium and potassium and the quantity of sugars (fructose, glucose and sucrose) which give this fruit an immediately toning and restorative effect.
Peaches have no particular contraindications .
It is often said that the consumption of peaches, as well as grapes, apricots and cherries, should be limited by those suffering from kidney stones. This, however, only applies in the presence of renal colic , because they could worsen the problem, otherwise there is no reason to deprive yourself of an important food such as fruit.
As for allergies, recorded cases are rare . In the presence of particular sensitivity to this fruit, just stop consuming it to avoid disturbances.
However, special attention must be paid to the seeds contained in the kernels .
They are edible, have exceptional antioxidant properties and some anticancer compounds, such as vitamin B17, but also contain a substance which in high dosages can be toxic . It is the amygdalin (cyanogenetic glucoside) with a bitter taste. When the seed is crushed, amygdalin comes into contact with emulsin (hydrolytic enzyme) which releases glucose, benzaldehyde with the characteristic smell of almond, and hydrocyanic acid, which has a toxic action on our body.
However, the presence of amygdalin in the peach core does not constitute a particular risk because the seed is protected by the core shell and is thus easily discarded . Even if the peach seed is chewed, the amount of hydrogen cyanide that would be released would be in too low a concentration to constitute a danger to our health.
All peaches can be eaten raw .
They are an ideal snack at any time of the day, refreshing, satiating and low-calorie.
As an alternative to fresh consumption, peaches can be used to prepare centrifuged or smoothies .
Some varieties are particularly suitable for the preparation of jams, dehydrated fruit, canned fruit and fruit juices , both industrially and handcrafted. All these preparations usually involve the addition of sugars, either in the government liquid, or in the process of transformation of the product, which alter some nutritional characteristics, especially the caloric part. In many cases the same applies to peach juices, to which preservatives, water and simple sugars are usually added.
On the other hand, peaches in dried or dehydrated form do not undergo major alterations, except that they have been deprived of water and therefore have blocked the degradation process. In this case, they have the same supply of nutrients and minerals as fresh peaches, but in a higher concentration .
In the case of industrial production, thanks to the application of the most modern conservation technologies, the fruit is stabilized with treatments that better respect its aromatic components and in some cases without the addition of simple sugars.
Thus, the development of knowledge in fruit preservation technologies has made it possible to reduce nutrient losses.
Peaches: which to choose
At the time of purchase, peaches can be presented to the touch in very different consistencies .
Cultivars intended for fresh consumption produce fruits which, when physiologically ripe, should be soft and rich in juice: for this reason they are defined as “dark”.
However, within this grouping there is a very wide variability.
Normally, we would be led to buy the fleshy ones. But fresh peaches are chosen with the nose.
Of whatever variety they are, peaches must first of all be perfumed . Then it is important to check that there are no dents, wrinkles and parts that are too soft to the touch. It is not said, however, that a very soft peach variety is more or less ripe than another harder variety.
Depending on the variety, the weight of the fruit can also vary considerably, up to 500 g.
This consideration leads us to say that in order to choose a good peach and at the right degree of ripeness, the varietal characteristic should be known first, even briefly.
Degree of maturation and sweetness
Ripening for fishing is an essential prerogative. The gustatory quality of the pulp is strongly influenced, in addition to the aromatic component, by the content in soluble sugars: fructose, glucose and above all sucrose which can vary between varieties and in relation to the state of ripeness.
Often, due to the logic of commercial opportunities connected to the life and handling of the fruit, products with a sugar content between 10 and 15% are placed on the market, when instead it should be close to 20%. In addition, the flavor is strongly influenced by the relationship and balance between the acid and sugar content.
To enjoy quality peaches it is good practice to rely on production companies or their cooperative or association organizations that are able to offer guarantees on the origin of the harvest and on the cultivation techniques used.
Often these follow specific disciplines and are also able to record every intervention performed on the pitch, relative to each batch of product.
How to store peaches
If the peaches are unripe at the time of purchase, it will be necessary to ripen them at room temperature;
ripe ones should be kept in the refrigerator, where they are kept for a few days.
In general, fresh peaches, after harvest, have a fairly short life that does not exceed ten days, even if stored in the refrigerator. It depends on the variety and degree of ripeness. In some cases they do not exceed three days of purchase , although they are still firm when we buy them.
A yellow-colored oil is extracted from the seed by pressing, with an odor and taste similar to that of almond oil, used as a mild laxative and as an emollient in the preparation of creams, soothing and ointments.
Peach blossoms are also used in medicine to prepare a syrup with slightly purgative properties.
Face mask with peach
To nourish your face during the summer, choose peach to have a toned and radiant skin.
Just mash a ripe and peeled peach with a fork, add 2 tablespoons of Greek yogurt and a spoonful of honey. Mix and apply on clean face. Leave on for at least 20 minutes. Rinse with warm water.
Mask for brittle hair
This DIY mask will help you have healthy and shiny hair.
Mix the pulp of 3 ripe peaches and add a jar of white yogurt, a spoonful of green clay and the juice of one lemon. After shampooing, apply the mask all over the hair, distributing it well. Leave on for about 20 minutes. Rinse.
Use in the kitchen: recipes with peaches
Peaches can be cut into pieces to prepare a fruit salad or fruit skewers , or used as a base for smoothies and smoothies or to flavor cold teas and flavored waters.
But they can also be cooked , in a pot or grilled. In this case, they marry very well, for example, with amaretti, and are a classic of Piedmontese regional cuisine.
They are ingredients of syrups, preserves, ice cream, jams and many desserts such as semifreddo and tarts.
The peaches are cooked in sugar syrup, cut, placed in a bowl on vanilla ice cream, covered with raspberry puree. It is considered an English dessert, as Escoffier probably served it for the first time in London, but it is now prepared in kitchens all over the world. Some variants include the addition of whipped cream and almonds.
Finally, they are also excellent for adding a touch of sweetness to savory recipes ,
Try the Peach Smoothie recipe