Stonefruit Summer: It's Peach and Nectarine Season!! - Earth to Veg
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Stonefruit Summer: It’s Peach and Nectarine Season!!

peach picking at dutchyn farm in niagara-on-the-lake

Millions of peaches, peaches for me

Millions of peaches, peaches for free $1.25/lb

Disclaimer: I know I’m posting this towards the tail-end of peach season, but you should still be able to find a bounty on store shelves. Also, I’m definitely neglecting a ton of other stonefruit here, including my beloved plums, and apricots, and even fruits like mangoes and cherries. I just like the alliteration of stonefruit summer okay?

Nectarine and Peach Season in Ontario

As I wrote about earlier, we went on a trip through Ontario’s Niagara region this summer. This included a fun time at a pick-your-own orchard! August and September are peak peach season, and the u-pick farms had just opened for the year.

hand-picked peach at dutchyn farm in niagara-on-the-lake

Peaches are the ideal fruit for picking. My past pick-your-own experiences were mostly with berries, which are fun but take fooreeeveer just to fill a small bucket. Stonefruit are huge by comparison, so picking them is both easy and quick. All in all I think we spent barely ten minutes doing the actual picking.

What’s the Difference Between Peaches and Nectarines?

Kevin and I were discussing this as we were picking peaches. We wondered how peaches and nectarines were distinguished from each other. Up to this point, I had pretty much used the two names interchangeably. Were they different species? Different size, taste, or colour?

We asked the owner of the farm, who told us the only difference between peaches and nectarines was the fuzziness of the skin. Mystery solved! Peaches have a furry-feeling skin while nectarines are shiny and smooth.

I guess that’s why Fuzzy Nectarines aren’t a thing.

Freestone Fruit vs Clingstone Fruit

This month, I learned a new term: freestone peaches.

Different varieties of peaches are categorized as either Freestone or Clingstone. The difference being whether the fruit “clings” to the pit or not. Freestone peaches fall right off the pit.

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So now I have a word to describe the very specific kind of peaches that are my favourite: white freestone peaches. There is really a word for everything!! I love English.

White Peaches vs Yellow Peaches

Some people, like my boyfriend, don’t seem to understand the difference between white-fleshed and yellow-fleshed peaches, which is very disturbing to me. IMO, there is a huge difference in taste and texture between the two. Same goes for nectarines.

White peaches and nectarines are firmer. Even when ripe, they are almost as crisp as an apple. They also taste sweeter in my experience.

Yellow-fleshed peaches or nectarines tend to be much softer. Even if a yellow peach feels firm and hard, once you cut it open the inside will be watery. They are more tart as well in comparison to white ones. At the beginning of September, over two weeks after I’d purchased them from the farm, I ate a yellow nectarine that was so ripe it basically melted in my mouth. It still wasn’t nearly as sweet as the rock-hard white peach that I had bought from the grocery store the day before.

I LOVE white peaches for eating out of hand, especially because I have a weird impartiality for hard fruit. My mom is the complete opposite where she enjoys fruit to the point of over-ripeness, but I don’t like the mushy mouthfeel. (Even when it comes to bananas, I’d rather eat a little green than a little brown!) Because of this, I can always trust white peaches to be delicious and sweet no matter how C R O N C H Y they are. Yellow peaches, though, are great for baking because the little bit of acidity they add pairs well with sweet desserts.

So while I would say both have their merits, I personally prefer white peaches to yellow ones.

fruit bowl of pears, yellow plums, and yellow peaches

Most Ontario Peaches are Yellow

Unfortunately for me, all the Ontario-grown peaches and nectarines I’ve seen are yellow-fleshed, even in the height of peach season.

Every time I find white peaches, they turn out to be USA imports, and I feel kinda bad buying them.

However, this has been incentivizing me to find new ways to enjoy yellow peaches other than eating them straight. Throughout this past month, I’ve experimented with several different recipes using peaches.

Fresh Peach Salsa

nectarine peach salsa

I’ve never really eaten salsa other than the jarred Old El Paso stuff, but with some extra cilantro and corn on hand, I took a shot at peach salsa.

After looking at a dozen posts on /r/SalsaSnobs, I just started throwing any vaguely Mexican ingredient together into a jar: cilantro, red onion, jalapenos, corn, and of course, peaches. Turned out quite yummy! My only issue was finding something to eat it with. Kevin didn’t care for it so it was up to me to finish the whole jar, and I just don’t have much uses for it in the dishes I usually cook.

Peach Cake

homemade peach zefir cake

I used a recipe for zefir cake but left out the zefir because I didn’t have enough saucepans and bowls, nor peach jello for that matter. This is quite a dishwasher-intensive recipe—something I haven’t done in a while.

Instead of using peach preserves, I added two peaches and two nectarines to a saucepan on low heat, added a splash of white wine, and slowly mashed and cooked them into a jam. Once reduced enough, the peaches were super sweet, and you couldn’t taste the wine anymore.

homemade peach zefir cake

Also, the instructions call for three 8-inch cake pans, but I only had a 7-inch and 9-inch. The two of them worked out well, although the result was obviously not as neat and pretty given the different sizes of the cakes.

The taste of the cake reminded me of a cake you’d buy from an Asian bakery—you know, a nice chiffon cake or Angel food cake with lots of fresh fruit in between the layers—and really took me back to those childhood birthdays. Kevin thought the peaches were oranges until I corrected him!

Summer Fruit Smoothies

blended mango peach smoothie

I gained a new appreciation for drinking my fruit with the surplus of fresh produce we’ve been buying this season. They’re an easy way to get extra fruit into your diet.

Here are three summerlicious smoothie creations that all use peaches! I’m also typing up a few recipes that use peaches with protein powder for some additional protein boost. I find that peaches are one of the best fruits to put in a smoothie because they’re very juicy and sweet and they blend up so nicely!

Grilled Romaine Caesar Salad with Peaches and Chickpeas

grilled romaine caesar salad with herby chickpeas and peach

This one maybe doesn’t count as a “peach dish” because the peach is really a side item that happens to share the same plate. However, the sweetness of the peach was a nice break every once in a while from the rest of the salad.

The romaine and beans were made using a recipe from Minimalist Baker where I substituted chickpeas for the white beans. Also, note that the recipe for the dressing makes a lot! It’s delicious but a little goes a long way. If you are making the full recipe, halve the amounts for the dressing or even quarter it.

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