Okanagan Peaches: Health Benefits, Storage and More

Okanagan-Canada-Peaches-What-are-the-benefits

Of all the flavors associated with summertime, few are as beautiful as that of a ripe, perfect peach. Sweet, fragrant, juicy peaches are absolute treasures at this time of year, and most grocery stores now have bushels near their entrances so that the fruits’ scent will entice you as soon as you set foot through the door.

While many people buy carloads of peaches to preserve them for the winter — weather by canning them in syrup or baking them into pies and cobblers — others prefer to grab as many as possible to enjoy in their raw, unaltered beauty and with good cause. There’s no taste like that of a summer-fresh peach, and right now is the ideal time to enjoy them.

Peaches Fresh From Canada

Okanagan-Peach

When we think of peaches, Canada rarely comes to mind as a place where these delicate-fleshed fruits will thrive. Peaches are believed to have originated in China. And traders helped to spread them around throughout India and the Middle East before they made their way to Europe and North America.

Wide peach varieties thrive in the warm states in the United States, like Georgia, where it’s the state’s official fruit, South Carolina, Texas, and California. However, a surprising number of peaches are cultivated in the balmy Okanagan Valley in southern British Columbia, Canada. The Okanagan peach is so renowned for its stone fruits that there’s a town called Peachland, where the fruits have been cultivated since the 1890s.

Suppose the thought of Canadian peaches intrigues you; there are a few different varieties you can look for at your grocery store: Suncrest. In that case, Fairhaven and Redhaven are a few to look out for, while O’Henry and Raritan Rose are a bit harder to find but well worth the effort. You’ll likely have an easier time finding Okanagan varieties if you’re located in Canada. Or on the northwest coast of the U.S. However, talk to your grocer or the suppliers at your local farmers’ market. You may be surprised to discover that the peaches offered are from B.C.

The Health Benefits of Okanagan Peaches

Aside from being delicious, peaches are also startlingly good for you. They’re very high in fiber, which is as essential for reducing cholesterol levels as it is for maintaining a healthy digestive system. Peaches are a surprisingly good source of vitamin A, which keeps our organs working properly, is vital for reproduction, and helps us maintain our vision.

Peaches also do wonders for maintaining healthy skin. Although they’re not as high in antioxidants as blueberries or goji berries, they have a fairly high level at 1,826 per cup of fruit. These antioxidants are essential for strong, healthy immune systems, which help to reduce inflammation and also help to deter cancer and other chronic health issues.

In addition to helping to slow the skin’s aging process. Peaches’ potassium content assists with nervous system function and regulates the heart rate. The zinc in peaches is known to boost testosterone levels in men. At the same time, its calcium and iron levels help with bone maintenance and hemoglobin production in red blood cells.

These fruits can even help reduce obesity. Their high fiber content isn’t just great for lowering cholesterol. It also helps to make people feel full longer, thus curbing appetite. The fact that peaches also have beneficial effects on digestive issues. Such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcers, and gastritis, makes them a powerhouse as far as holistic healing is concerned.

It’s wonderful to consider every bite you take out of one of these fruits. It also nourishes and heals your entire body on so many levels.

One thing to remember is that peaches regularly make their way onto the “dirty dozen” list of pesticide-contaminated produce. Suppose you’re aiming to add more peaches to your diet for numerous health benefits. It’s best to try to buy organic fruit whenever possible. Although washing fruit thoroughly can eliminate a lot of pesticide residue, peach skin is very porous. So chemicals can easily seep through their exterior fuzz and into the flesh.

How to Choose Them

Peaches

Suppose you’re grocery shopping and in search of a few perfect peaches. There are a few techniques to help you choose those at their peak.

1. Smell Them

This might make you feel a bit weird. But if you’re OK with looking a little awkward at the supermarket, it’s one of the best ways to help you select your fruit. Do you know that little hollow at the top of the peach where the stem used to be? Smell that. If there’s a fairly noticeable sweet, floral fragrance, your peach is well on its way to ideal ripeness. If it’s barely discernable, it was picked too early and still has a way to go before it tastes right. As a lovely elderly lady at a shop once told me, “the way a peach smells will tell you how it’s going to taste.”

2. Squeeze Them — Gently

The “shoulders” of the fruit — the curved part around the stem — are a great indicator of ripeness. Don’t squeeze that area too hard. But press in very gently and see whether the flesh gives a little or not. If it does, pop that beauty into your cart. If it’s firm, set it aside, as it’s not ready yet. In terms of suitability, you can use your face as a pressure reference. If you squeeze a peach, and it has the same amount of giving as the tip of your nose, it’s perfect.

Note: If you come across a bunch of squishy peaches that smell great but are too soft to eat without falling apart, it’s a great idea to pick them up anyway. You can turn them into jam or jelly and make sure none of that juicy sweetness goes to waste.

3. Do Comparative Weighing

Did you know that a ripe fruit weighs slightly more than an unripe one? Select a few peaches of the same approximate size and weigh them—the heaviest one will be the ripest, thanks to the water content within the fruit.

If you find a few beautiful peaches that aren’t quite ripe enough yet, don’t despair! Buy them anyway, and pick up a few ripe bananas. When you get home, pop the peaches and bananas into a paper bag together, and let them hang out for a few days. The ethylene gas released by the bananas will help your peaches to ripen more quickly.

Keeping Them Fresh

Peach-Halved

Now that you have a few perfect peaches, assuming you’ve managed to refrain from cramming them all in your mouth before you got home, you need to store them. This can be tricky since peaches are delicate and can bruise and tear easily.

If you’ve picked some peaches that are a little underripe or firm, keep them at room temperature for a few days to ripen to their full potential. You’ll want to place them stem-side-down on a plate or cutting board, away from direct sunlight, in a room that stays a pretty steady, warm temperature. Of course, the problem with storing fruit in the open air during the summer months is that their scrumptious scent usually draws insects, which will attempt to eat your peaches before you get to them.

The way to find the wee beasts away is to cover the fruits with a protective mesh screen cover. In the same way that people hide in mesh tents to keep from being devoured by mosquitoes, the peaches can rest safely beneath mini mesh tents, which will keep fruit flies, bees, wasps, and bottle flies away from your treasures.

Raw Peaches Two Opposing Views

Once they’re ripe, it’s important to keep peaches refrigerated to preserve their freshness. There are two opposing views when it comes to enjoying your peaches raw. Some people love to bite into cold, crisp peaches straight from the fridge, while others insist that the peaches be removed from the cold and allowed to warm to room temperature to enjoy their sweetness. On a hot day, the colder peaches can be incredibly refreshing, but is it preferable to enjoy the fruit at its best? It’s probably a good idea to try both — several times if needed — to determine which you prefer.

If you’re going to indulge in a very ripe, room-temperature peach, remember that it’s probably a good idea to do so while leaning over the sink. It’s going to be a gloriously juicy mess and worth every drip.

Rick Kaselj, MS

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