Peach Passion

By Debra Daniels-Zeller

Now grown in at least 64 countries, peaches originated in China and were cultivated there at least 3,000 years ago. Though not as sweet as today's varieties, wild peaches can still be found in remote regions of China. Peach trees were eventually transported to Persia (now Iran), where the scientific name, Prunus persica, implies the fruit tree originated. Later, the peach was exported to Rome, where early Romans found them so enchanting that they cultivated them extensively. In the following centuries, peach cultivation spread throughout Europe.

In the 1500s, Spaniards introduced peaches to Latin America, Mexico, Brazil, the West Indies, and, later, California missions, where the fruit trees flourished in temperate zones. Early settlers of North America planted peach trees down the East Coast. By the 1700s, peaches were plentiful across what would emerge as the continental United States. Today, the U.S. grows approximately 20 percent of the world's peaches.

There are at least 4,000 kinds of peaches, and new varieties are being continually developed from different breeding programs. Commercial production of these delectable treats is focused in California and across the Atlantic states. However, there are great-tasting peaches to be found in many other states, and most likely at a farmers' market near you.

Peach season lasts from June through September. Some varieties ripen early, others in mid-season, and still others during late summer. Peaches that are grown close to home and picked at the peak of ripeness are your best bet for good flavor. Tree-ripened sweet peaches don't ship well; hence, those destined for market are picked slightly green so they can be transported. These specimens can soften and may look inviting cosmetically, but they will never impart the sweetness and delicate texture of a peach that has been allowed to ripen on the tree. The sweet, sticky, juicy, tree-ripened ones are among the best treats summer has to offer.


Peach varieties are divided into two categories. Either the flesh clings to the pit or breaks free of it — cling or freestone. To confuse the issue, some, such as Redhaven, are classified as semi-cling peaches, meaning they initially cling but easily separate by the time they reach market. Many varieties look similar, so there isn't any one particular peach type that dominates the commercial market like Red Delicious does in apple varieties. Most people select their peaches by flesh color — white or yellow. Some claim white has the sweetest flavor, while others are partial to yellow peaches.

Some white varieties include Lady Nancy, Giant Babcock, Redrose, and Nectar. These have a wonderful light sweet peach fragrance and flavor. JH Hale, Belle, Sentry, Loring, Redhaven, Jefferson, and Suncrest are a few of the yellow types. They tend to have a firmer texture and a deep, sweet taste.


At farmers' markets, peaches are often displayed and packed in padded boxes to avoid bumping against each other. Even the slightest touch can bruise a tree-ripened peach. Handle these peaches carefully. Press very gently to determine freshness. If there is a little give, they are perfect. Avoid specimens with bruises or dented skin. Peaches can be stored at room temperature for a day or perhaps two and then refrigerated for a few days at the most.

To freeze peaches, blanch them first to remove their skins, then slice the peaches and coat the slices with water mixed with some lemon juice to maintain their color. Place in a plastic container, covered, or in a freezer bag, and freeze. To dehydrate the fresh peaches, first remove the skins, then slice evenly and place in the dehydrator for a day or so until rubbery like fruit leather. Store in the refrigerator.


Peaches provide fiber and have a high water content. They make perfect snacks on hot days. Peaches offer vitamins A and C.


To peel a peach, bring a large pot of water to a boil. With a paring knife, cut an ‘x' on the bottom of the peach. When the water boils, gently drop the peach into the pot. After approximately 3 minutes, use a utensil to carefully remove the peach from the water. Tug slightly at the peach's skin. If the skin slips off easily, the peach is done. If the skin does not slip off, continue to boil the peach. When the peach is ready, remove it from the pot and rinse it in cold water, pulling the skin off as you rinse. The cold water stops the cooking process.

To pit a peach, slice through the fruit on the seam or line, all the way around. Give a gentle twist and pull the halves apart.


(Serves 2)

I often dehydrate pie cherries, which make a great addition to this morning delight. Dried peaches, apricots, plums, cranberries, or dates are terrific with this recipe as well.

Toast the walnuts in a heavy skillet over medium heat until fragrant and toasted, or place them on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes.

  • 2 peeled and pitted peaches, divided
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup uncooked oatmeal (not instant)
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped dried fruit
  • 2 Tablespoons toasted walnuts

Chop one of the peaches. Combine the chopped peaches, water, oatmeal, cinnamon, salt, and dried fruit in a small saucepan. Stir and cook on medium heat for approximately 5 minutes or until oatmeal is creamy and smooth. Slice the remaining peach and top each serving with peach slices and toasted walnuts.

Total calories per serving: 267 Fat: 7 grams
Carbohydrates: 45 grams Protein: 9 grams
Sodium: 301 milligrams Fiber: 8 grams


(Makes 1 ⅓ cups or 12 servings)

I like to use a vegan garlic aïoli spread for this recipe. Look for it at natural foods stores in the refrigerated section, or purchase a vegan mayonnaise. This dressing is great over salad greens or fruit salads, or use about ½ cup to make a grated carrot and raisin salad. It is best eaten within a few days.

  • ¼ cup vegan mayonnaise or garlic aïoli spread
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup peeled, sliced peaches
  • 2 teaspoons white miso (available in natural foods stores and Asian markets)
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • Purée ingredients in a blender or with a hand blender, making sure all of the miso is blended in.
Total calories per serving: 32 Fat: 2 grams
Carbohydrates: 3 grams Protein: <1 gram
Sodium: 43 milligrams Fiber: <1 gram


(Makes 1 cup or 6 servings)

I like to use red jalapeños for this zesty dish because their small red flecks make a vibrant and colorful addition.

  • 2 ripe peeled and seeded peaches, divided
  • 1 jalapeño, minced
  • Juice of 1 lime (approximately 2 Tablespoons)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • ¼ cup cilantro
  • ½ avocado, diced small

Combine one of the peaches, jalapeños, lime juice, garlic, and salt in a blender and purée until smooth. Cut the other peach into small chunks, and add the chunks and the cilantro to the salsa. Stir in the avocado, and serve with chips.

Total calories per serving: 45 Fat: 3 grams
Carbohydrates: 6 grams Protein: 3 grams
Sodium: 100 milligrams Fiber: 2 grams


(Serves 4)

For a light lunch, I like to serve this soup with fresh melon, coleslaw, and marinated tofu slices. Agave nectar is available in natural foods stores. If you can't find it, apple juice concentrate makes a nice substitute. Lavender buds are usually found in the bulk herb section of a natural foods store.

  • 1 cup hot water
  • ¼ cup grated coconut
  • 5 cups peeled peach slices
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon agave nectar or frozen apple concentrate
  • ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 jalapeño, minced, or ⅛ teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 Tablespoon lavender buds (optional)
  • Four mint sprigs (optional)

Pour hot water over the coconut and allow to sit for 1 hour. Blend coconut water, peaches, lemon juice, agave nectar or concentrate, salt, and jalapeños or cayenne in a blender or a food processor until smooth and creamy. Serve cold or at room temperature, garnished with lavender buds and mint sprigs, if desired.

Total calories per serving: 132 Fat: 3 grams
Carbohydrates: 28 grams Protein: 2 grams
Sodium: 77 milligrams Fiber: 5 grams


(Serves 4)

This recipe goes well with jasmine rice and baby salad greens. Mirin (rice wine) and arrowroot are available in Asian markets and natural foods stores. If you don't want to use sake (Japanese rice liquor) and mirin, add ¼ cup water, 1 Tablespoon Sucanat, and 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil to this recipe.

  • One 8-ounce package tempeh, sliced perpendicularly to make 4 pieces
  • 3 Tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • ¼ cup sake
  • 2 Tablespoons mirin
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons apple juice concentrate
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 cups peeled, sliced peaches
  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Sucanat or maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon arrowroot
  • Olive oil or olive oil spray
  • Parsley or cilantro to garnish

Steam the four pieces of tempeh for 10 minutes.

Combine the soy sauce, sake, mirin, water, concentrate, and cayenne. Mix well and pour into a glass baking dish. Add the tempeh and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to prepare, combine peaches, lime juice, Sucanat or syrup, and arrowroot in a small bowl. Lightly oil a non-stick skillet and heat on medium. Remove tempeh from marinade and place in the hot skillet. Cook for 10 minutes. Turn tempeh, then add peach mixture. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes or until peaches soften and sauce thickens. Serve tempeh with peaches on top, garnished with parsley or cilantro.

Total calories per serving: 226 Fat: 6 grams
Carbohydrates: 28 grams Protein: 12 grams
Sodium: 616 milligrams Fiber: 5 grams


(Serves 4)

Grilled peaches are the best dessert of summer. I like to use unrefined, extra-virgin coconut oil because it infuses the peaches with such a wonderful flavor. Look for coconut oil in natural foods stores, or purchase it online. Serve these peaches with soy yogurt, Rice Dream, or a frozen vanilla soy dessert.

  • Vegetable oil spray
  • 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined coconut oil, melted
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne
  • 4 peaches, peeled, halved, and pitted
  • Mint sprigs

Spray the grill grid with oil to prevent sticking. Preheat grill.

Whisk balsamic vinegar, coconut oil, and cayenne together to make a glaze. Brush the cut side of the peaches and place them on the grill grid. Grill for 3-5 minutes. Brush the tops with the glaze and turn. Grill remaining side for approximately 5 minutes. Peaches should be nicely browned. Serve each peach half with a mint sprig.

Total calories per serving: 104 Fat: 7 grams
Carbohydrates: 11 grams Protein: <1 gram
Sodium: 3 milligrams Fiber: 2 grams


(Serves 8)

You may want to use slightly unripe peaches for this recipe because they hold their shape well. You can also use frozen peaches in this recipe. Thaw them first, and then follow directions.

Sucanat is a vegan sweetener. Look for it in natural foods stores and some supermarkets. You can grind your own flax seeds for this recipe with a coffee grinder, or you can purchase ground flax seeds at a natural foods store.

  • Vegetable oil spray
  • 1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon arrowroot (available in natural foods stores and Asian markets)
  • 3 cups peeled, sliced peaches
  • 1 ⅛ cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • ½ cup Sucanat or other organic sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • ¾ cup soymilk
  • 2 Tablespoons ground flax seeds
  • ⅓ cup oil
  • Mint springs to garnish

Lightly oil an 8" x 8" baking pan. Combine lemon juice, maple syrup, and arrowroot, and toss peach slices to coat. Lay peaches in the bottom of the baking dish.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cardamom. Use a blender or a hand blender to combine the soymilk and flax seeds together until they are thick and foamy, approximately 5 minutes. Pour oil into the soymilk mixture and blend again. Then, pour this mixture into the dry ingredient mixture and stir until a thick batter forms. Scrape the batter onto the peaches and gently spread the batter around the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

Serve this cake flipped over with the peaches on top. Dollop with Peach Cashew Cream and garnish with mint sprigs.

Total calories per serving: 255 Fat: 11 grams
Carbohydrates: 38 grams Protein: 4 grams
Sodium: 338 milligrams Fiber: 5 grams


(Makes 2 cups or 6 servings)

With its delicate peach flavor and a touch of maple syrup, this cream enhances rice or bread pudding and can be used to drizzle over peach shortcake, Cardamom-Peach Upside-Down Cake, or Lemon-Peach Jasmine Rice Pudding.

  • ½ cup cashews
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 large, ripe peach, peeled and sliced
  • 1-2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt

Combine cashews with water and let mixture sit for approximately 30 minutes or until nuts soften. Combine with the remaining ingredients and purée in a blender until smooth and creamy.

Total calories per serving: 81 Fat: 5 grams
Carbohydrates: 8 grams Protein: 2 grams
Sodium: 52 milligrams Fiber: 1 gram


(Serves 6)

Tree-ripened peaches breathe life into this recipe, so get the best, ripest peaches of the season that you can find. Vanilla beans are available in natural foods stores and specialty markets. Alternatively, you can use 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Soak the peach slices in lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown.

  • 1 cup brown jasmine rice, rinsed
  • 1-¾ cups water
  • 1 vanilla bean, slit down the middle
  • Pinch (approximately ⅛ teaspoon) of salt
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped lemon zest
  • 1 cup Peach Cashew Cream (See recipe above.)
  • ¾ cup water
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup cornstarch or arrowroot (available in natural foods stores and Asian markets)
  • 4 medium-sized peeled, sliced peaches, soaked in additional lemon juice
  • 4 Tablespoons Sucanat (vegan sweetener) or Florida Crystals, divided
  • ½-1 teaspoon cardamom

In a medium saucepan, bring the rice, water, vanilla bean, and salt to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes. When done, remove from heat, let sit 5 minutes, fluff with a fork, and remove vanilla bean.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine lemon juice and zest, Peach Cashew Cream, water, maple syrup, and cornstarch or arrowroot. Use a blender or a hand blender to purée until smooth. Combine Peach Cashew Cream mixture with rice. Place half of the mixture into a lightly oiled 9" x 9" baking dish. Lay half of the peaches over the rice and sprinkle 2 Tablespoons of Sucanat over the peaches. Spread the remaining rice over the peaches, cover, and bake for 35 minutes or until thick.

Remove from oven and place remaining peaches over the rice. Sprinkle with remaining Sucanat and cardamom. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes or until peaches are tender and pudding is thick. Remove from oven. Pudding thickens more as it cools.

Total calories per serving: 231 Fat: 1 gram
Carbohydrates: 55 grams Protein: 3 grams
Sodium: 60 milligrams Fiber: 2 grams

Debra Daniels-Zeller is a frequent contributor to Vegetarian Journal and recently wrote The Many Faces of Miso, which appeared in Issue 1, 2006. A resident of Washington State, Debra is also the author of Local Vegetarian Cooking: Inspired Recipes Celebrating Northwest Farms.