South African peaches and nectarines are mainly grown in the Western Cape. The sheltered valleys between mountains are ideal for the cultivation of fruit such as plums, peaches, nectarines, apples and pears.
South African peaches and nectarines are available from December to February in all major UK retailers. Some of the fantastic varieties to look out for during the season are:
Peaches: Excellence, San Pedro, Transvalia, Earligrande, and Novadonna
Nectarines: Alpine, Mayglo, Fantasia and Margaret’s Pride
How to choose: When choosing a peach or nectarine look for a smooth, firm and brightly coloured fruit that is slightly soft when gentle pressure is applied. Avoid hard wrinkled fruit with soft spots, blemishes or green tinges – a sign that the fruit was picked too early.
How to soften: To quicken the softening of the fruit, place in a pierced paper bag with an apple or banana; the ethylene gas given off by these fruits speeds up the softening process.
How to eat: The best flavour and nutritional benefits are derived from enjoying peaches and nectarines fresh and simply sliced. But they are also incredibly versatile and can be cooked, canned, dried, pureed, boiled, roasted, and made into jam. They also make a great accompaniment to a variety of savoury dishes including duck, goose or lamb. For some tasty recipe ideas, visit the recipes page.
Health and nutrition:
One peach or nectarine counts as one part of your 5-a-day and they are also:
- High in fibre
- A good source of Vitamin C (31mg per 100g), Vitamin A
- Low in fat, calories, cholesterol and sodium
- High in carotene and potassium
Peaches and nectarines are an excellent source of vitamin C, which helps our bodies to absorb iron as well as neutralising the free radicals that can otherwise contribute to the development of diseases such as cancer. Peaches and nectarines are also good for lowering the cholesterol level in the blood, preventing cardiovascular diseases, anaemia and renal diseases. It is believed that if you eat peaches first thing in the morning, this can help to regulate and maintain intestinal functions.
[Source: The Composition of Foods, sixth summary edition, by McCance and Widdowson]