The peach plant is described as a small, deciduous tree that grows up to 25 to 30 feet tall, and widely grown in the United States, Europe, and China for its juicy fruits. There are several cultivars of peach grown all over the world which differ in their color, size and growing characteristics based upon their regions of origin.
• Wonderfully delicious peaches are low in calories (100 g just provide 39 calories) and contain no saturated fats. Nonetheless, they are packed with numerous health promoting compounds, minerals, and vitamins.
• The total measured antioxidant strength (ORAC value) of 100 g peach fruit is 1814 TE (Trolox equivalents).
• Fresh peaches are a moderate source of antioxidant, vitamin-C. Vitamin-C has antioxidant effects and is required for connective tissue synthesis inside the human body. Consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps develop resistance against infectious agents, and help scavenges harmful free radicals.
• Fresh fruits are also a small source of vitamin-A and ß-carotene. ß-carotene is a pro-vitamin, which converts into vitamin-A inside the body. Vitamin-A is essential for night vision. It is also essential for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. Consumption of natural fruits rich in vitamin-A is known to offer protection from lung and oral cavity cancers.
• They are rich in many vital minerals such as potassium, fluoride, and iron. Iron is required for red blood cell formation. Fluoride is a component of bones and teeth and is essential for prevention of dental caries. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that help regulate heart rate and blood pressure.
• Peaches contain health promoting flavonoid poly phenolic antioxidants such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and ß-cryptoxanthin. These compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various disease processes.
Peaches can be available year round; however, the season for fresh fruits lasts from May until October. In the stores, look for fresh ones featuring rich color and may still have a slight whitish “bloom” on their surface indicating freshness, and that they have not been over handled. Avoid ones with excessive softness, or with surface cuts and bruises. Ripe fruits yield to gentle pressure and feature sweet aroma.
Slightly hard but mature fruits can be kept at room temperature until they ripen. Ripening process can be enhanced by applying ethylene (similar to the ripening of bananas). Storing inside a paper bag concentrates this gas and hastens the ripening process.
Ripe fruits can be kept in the refrigerator but preferably be brought back to room temperature before eating to enjoy their rich flavor.