Peach lovers are happily receiving news as sweet as their favorite fruit. According to fruit growers, 2018 is a banner year for peaches. A cold winter and dry spring helped to produce trees full of peach blossoms that turned slowly into succulent peaches that are ripening now and will be ready from now until early August.

Because there are a number of peach varieties that grow well in Texas, the availability changes throughout the summer. The first varieties to appear are cling peaches, with a pit embedded firmly in the fruit. As the summer progresses, freestone peaches take over. Many peach aficionados prefer the cling peaches because, at their best, they are sweeter and juicier.

Texas is fortunate to have two distinct peach regions, each with fans proclaiming their fruit to be the best. Fredericksburg and the surrounding area of the Hill Country are best known for their late spring and early summer peaches, while the East Texas town of Fairfield stakes their claim to peach perfection on its mid-summer yield. (Doubters of Fairfield’s peach cred should keep in mind that the town is located in Freestone County, so clearly peaches are a big deal there.)

Freestone County residents aren’t the only ones waxing poetic over peaches. A surprising number of poets have written odes to peaches. Poet Michael Shepherd described eating a peach as “It was a living proof of Plato; its perfection taught me where essence meets experience, where actuality meets the ideal of peach.”

With peaches currently so close to perfection, they don’t require a major overhaul to make them a delicious dessert, appetizer or snack. It doesn’t get much better than eating them in their unadorned state, or, as poet Li-Young Lee writes, “to hold the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into the round jubilant of peach.”

One step up from biting into a ripe, juicy peach is a simple pairing with one or two other ingredients. A slice of peach topped with a basil leaf and wrapped with prosciutto makes an easy appetizer that combines the sweetness of the fruit with the saltiness of the ham.

Frozen peach pops are another way to bite into a ripe peach, especially appealing on a hot day. The peaches can be puréed or left in bite-size chunks.

Peach purists could argue that there’s no need to swaddle a perfectly good peach in a marshmallow and chocolate blanket, but peach s’mores take the campfire favorite to a new level. Grilling the peach slices, or roasting them on sticks along with marshmallows, makes s’mores taste even more like summer. If chocolate and peach isn’t an appealing combination, white chocolate can be substituted, or the chocolate can be skipped entirely; there’s no chance the s’mores won’t be sweet enough without it.

Peaches are truly seasonal; it’s almost impossible to find a good one in those months with an R in them. That’s reason enough to indulge now, by themselves and in combination with a few choice ingredients.

Bernice Torregrossa:

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