Because of the busy spring season, I didn’t have time to take a tour of the supermarket for several weeks. If you’re in the flower business, spring is the season when you’re rushing in, picking up your needs, and going. But last weekend, I had time to walk around. Products look better. Every berry imaginable on the shelf and a melon is here. I love this time of year. Then I saw peaches, nectarines and apricots. I took home some of each. You need to buy them carefully because they have short storage/fridge time. They are tastier when they are soft and juicy.
Peaches and nectarines are part of a loose group of plants that come from several plant families, mostly in the plum or plum family. Cherries, peaches, and apricots are part of this botanical family. The stones were also grouped with fruits such as mangoes, olives, dates and coconuts.
Of course, Georgia is known as the Peach State. The climate there is very favorable for this Chinese citizen. This tree originated there and over hundreds of years, found its way to Persia (Iran) and Turkey, and after several hundred years it was a favorite food of the Iroquois in central and western New York. Our area had almost as many peach trees as chestnut and apple trees. It was so popular that Aurora was called Peachtown.
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There are many types of peaches. The first designation you come across is clinging stone or slate stone. The names are self-explanatory. Either the fruit clings to the stone or it doesn’t. I just hate to work on removing the body from the stone and sometimes I leave half of it. If it wasn’t a free stone, you’d have gone through it. The most obvious difference between peaches and nectarines is the opaque texture of the leather. Peach is very mysterious. Nectarine is not. Peaches are usually round, although if you use a little imagination, when cut in half, they look like a heart. When ripe they are very sweet. In recent years, we’ve seen a “peach donut” in the grocery store. They are wider than regular peaches, only an inch high and are somewhat pungent.
Although peaches are available nearly year-round, I don’t think it’s worth the effort from early November through April, when Georgia peaches begin to be available. In the off-season, it does not seem to get soft and sweet, as it is now. (I use frozen out of season.)
To finish off the peaches, I’m going to tell you that my favorite dessert of all time, any time of year, is peaches cobbler. Although I love to cook, I’m not a good baker, so I cheat on dessert.
Start the cobbler by going to Bass Pro Stores and picking up a container of Uncle Buck’s fruit cobbler mix. You have to save a second trip to the mall and pick up a second container. Turn oven to 375 degrees and set a 9″ x 9″ baking dish on the middle rack. Once the temperature is reached, add a quarter cup of butter. When thawing, move it to cover the bottom of the dish, trying to cover the sides as much as possible. In a large bowl, add 1 1/2 cups of Uncle Buck’s mix and 2/3 cups of milk. Do not over mix and pour over the butter. Now, cover the mixture with one layer of frozen or fresh peach slices. There is added information about the use of fresh fruit on the container. It is worth continuing. Bake for 35 minutes and let cool. This recipe makes half a dozen generous portions. Tasty!
There is not much difference between nectarine and peaches, except that only peaches have a fuzzy skin. I think nectarines are more solid when cooked, and I think they are delicious when grilled. Both fruits are delicious on a green salad when grilled with sharp cheese or on top of ice cream.
The apricot, a second mysterious fruit, is just appearing in stores. About half the size of a peach. Mysterious and free. Just chop it up and enjoy the ripening is the best.
Be safe and enjoy the summer.
Carmen Cosentino runs Cosentino’s florist in Auburn with his daughter Jessica. He was elected to the National Florist Hall of Fame in 1998, and in 2008 he received the Tommy Bright Award for his lifetime achievement in floral education. In 2016, Carmen and Jessica were awarded Teleflora’s Tom Butler, as Cosentino’s Florist of the Year was named at the company’s annual meeting in Hawaii. Carmen can be reached at [email protected] or (315) 253-5316.