Ahhh, peach season is here. The peach is one of my most beloved fruits, capturing all the indescribable feelings of late summer in it’s juicy sweet deliciousness. I can easily see how this decadent fruit climbed to the status of celestial in China, it’s native country. There, the peach was considered the fruit of longevity and immortality. In Toaist myth, the peach tree was the tree of life, twisting upward from earth to sky, supporting the universe in its branches. Legend has it that this tree produced fruit once every three thousand years, and any who we’re able to gain access to the fruit by climbing the highest mountain in Tibet would immediately ascend to heaven when they took a bite of the sweet flesh. I know I have certainly felt like I was ascending into heaven when eating a perfectly ripe peach!
Most beautiful of all, peaches are more than just delicious. One large peach contains just 70 calories, an abundance of beta carotene (the vitamin A pre-cursor), vitamin C, and niacin. In Chinese medicine they are said to have a cooling effect on the body, lubricate the intestines and promote elimination. They soothe gastric inflammation, and their leaves can be used for easing symptoms of gastric reflux and nausea.
In my house, the peaches almost never make it past the eating out of hand stage – they are just so good, its difficult to imagine how they could be improved at all with cooking. But this year, I am forcing myself to save a few for the cooking pot, and am finding it well worth the effort. Yesterday, I made a delicious vanilla peach compote by simmering peach halves in a tiny bit of water with dash of maple syrup and a sliced open vanilla pod. I spooned it over my oatmeal with a handful of blueberries, and can honestly say I have never enjoyed a bowl of porridge as much! Sliced up in a salad with toasted almonds and a raspberry vinaigrette was also a fantastic peach application. Another new favorite is whizzing a peach in the blender with 3/4 cup milk, a teaspoon of raw honey, and a dash of orange water. Served over ice, this is just the thing for a hot summer night!
But perhaps my most favorite new found use for peaches is to make a spicy, gingery chutney to serve with Indian samosas (vegetable stuffed pastry) or to spoon over a spicy curry with a little flat bread. The recipe was based off a mango chutney recipe – and peaches just seemed like the perfect local and seasonal substitute for the very un-local mango. Turns out they aren’t just a great substitute, they might be even better than mangoes. Try it and see for yourself.
Gingery Peach Chutney
- 2 ripe peaches, chopped
- 2-3 tablespoons freshly grated ginger (depending on spice preference)
- 1 medium sized shallot, finely diced
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 1 tbl sugar (maple sugar, organic unrefined cane sugar, etc)
- 1 tbl freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 1/8 tsp cloves
- 1/8 – 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (depending on spice preference)
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
Blanch the peaches in boiling water for 15-20 seconds, then plunge into cold water. Once they are cool, slip the skins off (they should come off quite easily). Chop the peaches into 1/4 inch cubes, and place in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, tasting and adjusting for your preferred level of spice and sweetness, adding more sugar, ginger or red pepper flakes as needed. Let the chutney sit for 30 minutes to an hour to let the flavors fully meld together.