Here’s a new article and recipe from my friend Chef Mark Vogel. He gives a little history of the peach, where it came from, how it used and finishes with a classic Peach Melba recipe. I have never made this dish but I am going to give it a try after reading his recipe. Looks delicious and something I can recreate at home.
A Little Peach History
Peaches, native to China, have been consumed by man for at least 4,000 years. The geographical itinerary that brought them to America is similar to other Asian fruits. It goes like this: From China they spread to Persia. From Persia they went to the Mediterranean, (with a little help from Alexander the Great). The Greeks and Romans spread them throughout Europe while the Spanish explorers and English colonists introduced them to America.
Commercial production in America began in the 19th century. California is the top US producer although they are grown in many other states. China, Italy, Greece and India are the leading producers outside of America.
Medicinal Folk Lore
Like most other foods, peaches have been credited with all kinds of medicinal and mythological properties. Man’s innate inability to accept his mortality generates a timeless quest for panaceas and potions. Subsequently, peaches have been touted as a cure for stasis, inflammation, allergies, and many other conditions.
They are also associated with longevity. Chinese folklore claims that peaches were consumed by immortals. Oh, and they also ward off evil spirits. This is very convenient because if you’re going to live forever, you don’t want your eternity plagued by malevolent entities.
Types of Peaches
Returning to reality, there are hundreds of varieties of peaches but most can fall into one of two bidimensional categories. Yellow fleshed peaches tend to be more acidic and tangy. White fleshed peaches, the most common in American supermarkets, are generally sweeter and lower in acidity.
Similarly, peaches are either freestone, (the overwhelming produce aisle favorite), or clingstone which are used almost exclusively for commercial production, such as canned peaches. As their monikers imply, freestone peaches have pits that are readily detached from their flesh while clingstone peach pits tenaciously resist.
What To Look For In A Good Peach
American peaches are available May through October. Peaches from the southern hemisphere will keep you supplied in winter. Select specimens that are fragrant, plump, and devoid of blemishes or soft spots. When ripe they will yield to slight pressure.
They are best when ripened on the tree but if not, leave them out on the counter or place them in a paper bag to ripen. Do not refrigerate peaches as the cold inhibits their flavor. Peaches are a good source of potassium and vitamins A and C.
Peaches can be poached, broiled or grilled. They are used to make pies, jams, sorbets, soufflés and brandy. They are sometimes employed as an accompaniment to savory dishes such as calves liver or duck. Or, they can be the star of the show as in Peach Melba.
Peach Melba is a dessert consisting of vanilla ice cream, peaches poached in a vanilla flavored syrup, and a topping of raspberry sauce. It was invented by the famous French chef Georges Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935), in honor of the popular opera singer Dame Nellie Melba (1861-1931).