The peach season is in full swing. Local tree-ripened peaches are available from May to August here in Texas. Peaches are the state’s “leading deciduous fruit crop” although we still consume more peaches than the state produces (Texas Fruit and Nut Production, Texas A&M). Our love for tree-ripened peaches is good news for growers—they get a good price for their fruit. It’s good for us, too, because most growers market their fruit locally at farm stands and in-state groceries. Growers pick their peaches when they are ripe on the trees—not picked green for shipping long distances. Consumers don’t mind paying for tree-ripened peaches because of their incomparable sweetness, flavor and texture.
History of Peaches
Peach trees were brought into Florida in the sixteenth century and the American Indians carried them north. Seed propagated so easily that peach trees grew wild in North America. Thomas Jefferson made an effort to cultivate the best varieties available in his time. He planted 38 varieties of peach at Monticello for eating at the table, for making peach brandy and for drying. In writing about the orchards at Monticello, Jefferson told his granddaughter “we abound in the luxury of peach” (The Gardens of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello).
That’s a good phrase to remember at this time of year whether you get your peaches from Texas, Georgia, Virginia or elsewhere. We have a wonderful fruit to eat in hand, and just think of the possibilities of taste enhancement when you roast peaches in a wood-fired oven. I’ve included a couple of my favorite ways to enjoy tree-ripened peaches this summer. I hope you’ll be inspired to include roasting some tree-ripened peaches in your oven.
Tree-ripened Peaches, Fire Roasted
Fire-roasted peaches make a delicious summer dessert on their own. The high heat in a wood-burning oven intensifies the peach and caramelizes the surface sugars creating a brûléed effect.
Charred Peach Ice Cream
We adapted Alton Brown’s Burnt Peach Ice Cream recipe for wood-burning ovens. Instead of peach preserves, we puréed wood-fired peaches to highlight the unique flavor of fire-roasted peaches.
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup puréed wood-fired peaches with a squeeze of lemon juice
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
Pinch kosher salt
4 medium peaches, halved, seeded and fire-roasted until charred
Combine all ingredients except peaches, in a large saucepan. Bring mixture to a bare simmer (about 170°), stirring occasionally. Chop fire-roasted peaches and set aside. Strain cream into a lidded container and cool overnight in refrigerator. Freeze cream mixture in ice cream machine. When ice cream reaches soft-serve consistency, fold in chopped peaches and move to a lidded container. Freeze to desired consistency.
Smoked Brisket Tacos with Peach Salsa
These smoked brisket tacos with peach and cucumber salsa are an easy make-ahead dinner for casual summer entertaining. Inspired by the brisket tacos featured in Southern Living July 2015, smoking the brisket creates beautiful contrast between sweet and smoky.
Cool Peach Salsa Recipe
You can find local peaches at farm stands, farmer’s markets and most HEB stores. Edible Austin also maintains a list of pick your own places in the Austin area.