Sweet, juicy and fragrant, peaches are one of the most beautiful fruit around. Around the size of a tennis ball, they are covered with a velvety down, and most commonly have a red-blushed yellow skin and golden yellow flesh, apart from white peaches, which have a pink-blushed cream skin and pinky white flesh. It's possible to find flatish, disc-shaped varieties of peach, but the most common type is spherical, with a little peak (known as a 'beak') at one end. Just like nectarines, they come in either clingstone or freestone varieties - the name indicates how easily the stone is freed from the flesh.
Choose the best
A ripe peach will have a fragrant aroma, and will be yellow around the stem. It should feel firm but will yield slightly when it's gently squeezed. Avoid any peaches that feel hard, or that have bruising or mould. Slightly underripe peaches will soften if stored at room temperature, but won't get much sweeter.
Following the line of the dimple, cut around the fruit with a sharp knife, then twist each half apart. Slice or chop as required. If there is too much fuzzy bloom on the skin for your taste, you can rub it off under cold water. Tough skin can be peeled off with your fingers, or drop the peach into boiling water for around 15 or more seconds then plunge immediately into cold water. The skin should then come away easily.
If you are not going to eat cut peaches straight away, brush the cut sides with lemon juice or acidulated water to prevent them going brown.
Slightly underripe peaches can be ripened at room temperature for a day or two. They should then be kept in the fridge in a perforated bag, where they'll keep for a couple of days.
Eat raw, as they are, or slice and add to fruit salads, pavlovas or trifles. Use to make tarts, or serve with vanilla ice cream or cream. Poach (10 minutes for whole; 4-5 for halves). Halve and roast (15-20 minutes).