Reading Time: 4 minutesYou know it’s summer in Australia when you see peaches falling off the shelves in local markets. There is nothing more pleasing than enjoying the soft, sweet and sour tartness of this versatile fruit, eating it whole or adapting its subtle flavour in various recipes. This is the best time to get a box of peaches and enjoy their goodness. You can find them in different varieties and colours – yellow, orange and white – in markets across the country.
How to select the best peaches
The best place to buy peaches is the local farmers’ market as you will get fresh produce and fruit which has not lost flavour due to the long travel time. Look for peaches which are vibrant in colour, avoiding green undertones. The skin of the fruit should be unwrinkled and smooth. If the fruit is hard, leave it at room temperature for one or two days so that they ripen. You can store soft ones in the refrigerator for three to five days.
Whether your motive is to eat healthily or you are allergic to treated sugar, it always helps to remove white, refined sugar from your diet. There are many natural and healthier alternatives available which give similar sweetness and do not possess the risk that artificial sweeteners give. Some of the commonly used natural sweeteners include coconut sugar/palm sugar, stevia, erythritol and xylitol.
Coconut sugar is a sugar produced from the sap of cut flower buds of the coconut palm. It has been used as a traditional sweetener for thousands of years in the South and South-East Asian regions where the coconut palm is in abundant supply. Coconut sugar has gained popularity as a health food and among people with diabetes because of its low glycemic index.
Stevia is a sweetener and sugar substitute extracted from the leaves of the plant species Stevia Rebaudiana. Pure stevia has up to 150 times the sweetness of sugar. The active compounds of stevia are steviol glycosides (mainly stevioside and rebaudioside), which are heat-stable, pH-stable, and not fermentable.
Erythritol and xylitol are sugar alcohols extracted from fruits and vegetables. They have a low glycemic index and are easy to digest. They are stable on high heat and can be used in baking. If taken in excess at once, they may cause indigestion in some people.
As with any serious medical conditions, or if in doubt, consult your health practitioner before incorporating stevia or coconut sugar into your daily diet.
This is a common traditional dessert from South Asia. Peaches used in the below kheer need to be soft and sweet in taste, if they are too sour then they might curdle the milk. Choose ripened yellow ones to get the best colour in the dessert.
- ½ cup white rice (soaked in water for 30 minutes and washed)
- 6 cups (1½ litre) milk
- ½ cup coconut sugar (or palm sugar)
- 1 tsp stevia (optional, substitute with 2 tbsp coconut sugar)
- 2 -3 ripe peaches, peeled and chopped
- 2-3 cardamoms
- 1 tsp saffron (optional)
Heat milk in a thick bottom pan. Allow it to boil. Then add pre-washed rice and cardamom. Cook on a slow flame, stirring slowly, until the rice is cooked. Then add saffron, coconut sugar, peaches and stevia. Add more milk if required. Stir slowly on low heat for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and serve warm or chilled as desired.
Indian peach chutney
This is a classic Indian chutney recipe for cooking with slightly tart peaches. Prepare in advance and have it with your favourite tortilla chips or nachos when you sit down to watch your favorite game or movie. If the peaches are little hard, then cook them over a slow flame by covering them with a lid.
- 1 onion, sliced
- 2-3 truss tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1 small piece of ginger, finely chopped
- 3 medium sized peaches, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice/apple cider vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder,
- ½ tsp chilli powder or to taste
- 1 tsp salt to taste
- 2 tsp oil
- 1 tbsp coconut sugar
Heat oil in a pan, then add onions and sauté for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, peaches, salt and sauté for 5 minutes. Cover the pan with a lid and let it cook over a low flame for 15-20 minutes or until the tomatoes and peaches have been cooked. Add all the spices, lemon juice, coconut sugar and let it simmer for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat, allow it to cool. Store in a jar in a refrigerator.