Health Benefits of Peaches and Nectarines in the Mediterranean Diet
Peaches and nectarines (a smooth-skinned type of peach) are spectacular summer fruits when you are lucky enough to get good ones. In the Mediterranean, where peaches are abundant in the summer, the quality is high. In the United States, peaches and nectarines bought out of season are frequently disappointing, even inedible. Nothing compares to the perfect, juicy, fragrant peach or nectarine, however. These fruits don’t need any adornment.
However, peaches stuffed with chopped nuts and the crumbs of almond cookies are a popular Italian dish, and fresh peaches or nectarines poached in a little wine are a not-so-sinful pleasure, considering the high nutritional content of these fruits: rich in vitamin C, beta-carotene, and other carotenoids (again, the color is the clue), peaches and nectarines are a nutritious way to wind up a great meal.
Cooking brings out more of the flavor in even the ripest peach, so consider cooking peaches whenever the mood strikes you. In addition to poaching, peaches are delicious grilled, baked, or even lightly sautéed in a fruity olive or nut oil. Peaches are closely related to almonds, so any combination of these two “fruits” is pleasing.
Peaches and nectarines don’t keep well, but once ripe, will keep longer, in the refrigerator. Both are best purchased tree-ripened. Skin color is irrelevant to ripeness, but the peach should yield slightly to light pressure and have a fruity aroma. To ripen an unripe peach or nectarine, place one to three fruits in a paper bag for two or three days. Peaches and nectarines are in season (increasing your chances of getting good ones) in July and August. When you can’t find good fresh peaches or nectarines, canned and frozen peaches are an acceptable alternative, retaining most of their nutritional value (they lose some vitamin C but the carotenoid content remains the same).