Right outside our back door is the most amazing peach tree I have ever seen. It is tall, strong and keeps the summer sun out of our living room in the late afternoon. It started life as a seedling under a wild tree on the side of the road, and was soon planted in our garden. For the first couple of years nothing happened, and then the third year we had buds, but it aborted all the fruit soon after they formed. We decided to give it one more year (last year) and we are very glad we did; last year we got a healthy crop of peaches and this year was even better. So what to do with kilos and kilos of peaches? My two favourites are peach chutney to serve with cold meats and of course bottles peaches for winter desserts.
Peaches are deciduous trees (they lose their leaves annually), originating in Northwest China. They are a tree that likes a cold winter and so they grow best in places like Central Otago and the Hawkes Bay. Over the last two winters here in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, we have had some good winter frosts which have contributed to our good crop. Most varieties of peach require 500 hours of chilling (0-10 degrees Celsius) over the last autumn/early winter period. Over this time the plant is dormant, but inside, important chemical reactions are taking place. Once the weather starts to warm up again, these reactions result in the buds breaking and growing. Peach trees can happily tolerate temperatures above -26C, but new buds are unlikely to form if the temperature falls below -16C, especially close to bud break. If temperatures are too warm over winter, then the chemical reaction required for fruit does not happen, or at least is not as successful as it would be in a cooler climate.
Peaches are loaded with nutrition.
One large peach will provide an adult with up to 10% of their daily requirement of fibre, vitamin A, potassium and almost 20% of the vitamin C we need. That is a lot of goodness packed into a very delicious snack.
One of my favourite things to do with excess peaches is to make peach chutney. Today I will share my recipe with you. Enjoy!
Mawera Karetai x
1.8kg firm, ripe peaches
1 2/3 cups light brown sugar
Two cinnamon quills
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 small red onion, sliced finely
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated
12 cardamom pods, bruised
2 fresh red chillies, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced (choose your chilli based on your tastes
· Bring a large pot of water to a boil and fill a large bowl with ice water. Using a paring knife, score the bottom of each peach with a small X. Add the peaches to the boiling water for 30 seconds, then transfer them to the ice water with a slotted spoon. Peel the peaches, then halve them and remove the pits. Cut the peaches into medium dice.
· In a medium pot, combine the brown sugar with the vinegar, ginger, onion, cinnamon and cardamom; stir to dissolve the sugar. Simmer over moderately low heat until the onion is slightly softened, about 8 minutes. Add the peaches, chillies and a pinch of salt and simmer over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the peaches are very soft and translucent, about 1 hour. Remove cinnamon quills.
· Ladle the chutney into preserving jars, tapping lightly on a flat surface to release any air bubbles. Seal the jars and leave to sit for at least a month.