There is an abundance of fruit this fall, and when my friend Deb Suran needed some help processing over 50 pounds of peaches, I was happy to oblige. Intensely fragrant, perfectly ripe, sweet and juicy, with velvety, red-blushed skin and soft orange flesh, peaches are the third most popular fruit in America. (Right behind apples and oranges)
From Deb, a talented orchardist and “fruit whisperer”, I learned the life of a peach tree is short, often just 10 – 15 years. They are a challenge to grow due to our harsh winters and short summers. To successfully harvest the crop is often a labor of love, as birds, raccoons and flying insects love Maine peaches too.
The early homesteaders planted peach trees up and down the eastern seaboard, establishing the fruit so firmly in the United States that botanists in the mid-1700’s assumed that the peach was native to America. Food historians theorize that the peach tree originated in China and was introduced into the Middle East and Europe centuries before the Spanish explorers brought it to the New World.
With this year’s abundance of fruit, I’ve been experimenting with different culinary preparations, including firing up the grill. The sweet and smoky grilled peach is a delicious foil for grilled salmon or halibut, and makes into a luscious salad with spicy greens and your favorite creamy goat cheese.
The recipe for Grilled Peach Salsa is adapted from Simply in Season, a world community cookbook. A handy reference when your garden (or your neighbor’s) explodes with perfectly ripe, seasonal fruits and vegetables, this book inspires home cooks to enjoy the bounty of eating foods grown closer to home.
Probably all local, Maine peaches should come with a warning label: addictive! Once you’ve eaten a fragrant, perfect sun ripened peach with juices running down your chin, you may never be able to eat the green, hard rocks they pass off as peaches in the supermarket again.
GRILLED PEACH SALSA
- 5 – 6 peaches pitted, grilled and diced, about 2 cups
- 4 large tomatoes seeded and diced, about 2 cups
- 1 ½ jalapeno peppers about 3 tablespoons, more or less to taste
- 1/3 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons Chopped fresh cilantro
- sea salt and fresh pepper to taste
- Wash the peaches. Using a sharp paring knife, cut along the seam on the outside of the peach. Twist the peach in half. Remove the pit with a small spoon.
- Brush the peach halves with olive oil.
- If desired, seed (and peel) the tomatoes. Cut into evenly sized cubes and add to a large bowl.
- Wearing gloves, cut the jalapeno peppers in half and remove the seeds. Chop finely and add to the bowl.
- Preheat the grill to medium high. Grill peaches face down for 5 minutes, then flip over and grill until skins start to darken. Remove from heat and cool.
- Slip the skins off the peaches. Dice. Add the diced peaches to the bowl.
- Finely chop the cilantro and add to the bowl. Stir in the honey, and season the salsa with fresh pepper and sea salt.