Contrary to popular belief, there is no better way to pick a peach than to taste one.
Many people think you can gauge the fruit's ripeness based solely on the color of its skin, but in fact the skin is more indicative of a peach's variety than its stage of eatability.
Of course, it's not an option to spend a leisurely 10 minutes taking bites of peaches in the produce section at the grocery store before deciding upon an optimal choice; however, you do have that option if you visit a farm that grows them itself.
Centennial Farms in Augusta, MO (southwestern St. Charles County), grows 12 different kinds of peaches—all of which, according to their website, have ripened early this year and are ready to be consumed with pleasure starting this week.
If you decide to spend a weekend day out at Centennial this summer, you will also find tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, along with blackberries, muskmelons and watermelon.
But the highlight will clearly be the peaches. When deciding which to get, there are a couple other ways to pick the best as well. Look for peaches with a sweet fragrance that are also soft when given a gentle squeeze.
Once you get them home, store them at room temperature (refrigerating them will cause a loss in flavor and taste). You will want to use them within a couple of days, as peaches continue to ripen once they've come off the tree.
For a simple preparation, peel, chop and cook them down in a sauce pot with some simple syrup (see recipe below), then ladle them over fresh vanilla ice cream.
As a more complex option, prepare a delicious peach sauce to accompany grilled pork chops or chicken.
Centennial Farms will be open Thursdays through Sundays until early November starting June 24. 'Pick your own' hours are between 12 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Peach Simple Syrup
- 2 large peaches, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
- 2 C sugar
- 4 C water
Bring the water to a boil, then add the sugar. Cook until the mixture thickens, then lower the heat and add the peaches. You can either strain the liquid for a syrup with the essence of peach or keep them in as an ice cream topper.
Peach and Caramelized Onion Sauce
- 2 peaches, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 onion, sliced
- 1/4 c sherry or white wine
- 1/4 C vegetable or chicken broth
- 2 T flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
Heat 1 T olive oil in a saute pan. Add the onions and cook over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and caramelized. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the peaches and cook 3 more minutes. Add the sherry or wine, then over low heat reduce the mixture until the alcohol smell has gone away. Add the broth and bring to a low simmer.
Whisk the flour with roughly 4 T water until there are no lumps to make a slurry. Slowly whisk the slurry into the sauce as needed until it has thickened and coats the back of a spoon. Season with salt and pepper.