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Archive for Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Proper handling, storage bring out best in peaches

July 11, 2007

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Q: What should I look for when selecting fresh peaches?

A: To select juicy peaches, choose ones that have a sweet fragrance. The scent indicates sweet taste. You also want to pay attention to the color, selecting peaches that have a yellow or cream skin. Some peaches also have a red/orange color, too, but this is no indication of sweetness. Look for ones that have a smooth skin.

Ripe peaches yield to gentle palm pressure. Avoid peaches that are hard and green, brownish, excessively soft, bruised or shriveled, or that have tan circular spots.

If you select peaches at the grocery store that are already ripe, be sure to eat them right away. If the peaches need ripening, put them in a closed brown paper bag at room temperature and check them daily. To help them ripen faster, add one apple to the bag. High heat causes peaches to become dry and mealy, and exposing them to the sun will make them shrivel.

Q: What's the best way to store peaches?

A: It is best to eat ripe peaches right away, but they can also be stored for three to five days.

Peaches that are not quite ripe can be refrigerated for about two weeks. Peaches also taste best when they are at room temperature. So if you get a peach out of the refrigerator, you might want to try setting it on the kitchen counter for about an hour. This will bring out the wonderful, sweet flavor of the peach.

Peaches may also be frozen. Peel, cut into halves or slices, pack into containers and cover with a mixture of 1 teaspoon ascorbic acid added per quart of cold water. Press fruit down and add syrup to cover, leaving 1/2-inch of air space. Place a small piece of crumpled water-resistant paper (i.e., waxed paper) or plastic wrap to hold fruit down. Seal and freeze before sealing with a lid. Note: To make the peel slide off easily, put it in boiling water for 30 seconds, remove and put it in cold water immediately. (Peaches peeled using this method taste slightly cooked.)

Q: Are peaches healthy?

A: Peaches are a great source of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant that protects your body from free radical damage that could lead to heart disease and cancer. Peaches also provide about 2 grams of dietary fiber. It is recommended to consume 25-30 grams of fiber per day from foods to decrease risk of heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. One medium peach also has 40 calories, 0 grams of fat, 5 milligrams of calcium and 6 milligrams of vitamin C.

Here's a healthy peach dessert recipe that was shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that you may want to try.

Peach crepes with ricotta

For crepes:

1 cup egg substitute

1 3/4 cups skim milk

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

For filling:

6 peaches, pitted and thinly sliced

1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese

1 tablespoon sugar

4 tablespoon skim milk

Confectioners' sugar

To make the crepes: Combine the eggs and milk in a bowl and whisk, then, little by little, whisk in the flour, salt and sugar to make a thin, lump-free batter. If, despite your best efforts, there are still lumps, strain the batter through several thicknesses of cheese cloth. Cover the batter and refrigerate for two hours. If the batter still seems too thick - it should be the consistency of thick cream - thin it by beating in a little milk. Heat a 12-inch skillet, preferably nonstick. The pan is ready when a drop of butter placed in it sizzles and spatters. Drop in a teaspoon of butter and melt it over medium-high heat, coating the pan by tipping it from side to side.

Pour a scant 1/4 cup of batter into the pan, quickly tipping and turning the pan to cover the bottom. Pour off any excess. In a very short time, the batter will begin to have bubbles on its surface, and the edge will begin to pull away from the side of the pan. Using a spatula, turn over the crepe and cook it just a moment on the other side. Remove to a covered plate and keep warm. Repeat until all batter has been used. To make the filling: In a bowl combine the ricotta, the 1 tablespoon of sugar and 2 tablespoons of the milk and mix until creamy, adding more milk if desired. It should be easily spreadable. To fill the crepes: Spread 2 tablespoons of the ricotta cheese mixture on one side of each crepe. Place one half of a peach, sliced thinly, down the middle of each crepe on top of the ricotta cheese mixture. Roll the crepe up similar to rolling a soft-shell taco or burrito. Sprinkle lightly with additional confectioners' sugar, if desired. Serves eight.

Nutrition facts per serving: 140 calories; 0 grams fat, 10 grams protein, 25 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 260 milligrams sodium.

Q: Can hand sanitizer be harmful?

A: A report out of Tulsa, Okla., told of a 4-year old who licked her hands after applying instant hand sanitizer prior to eating lunch. The child became very lethargic and incoherent. Basically, the child looked intoxicated. Fortunately, the child recovered and is fine.

Hand sanitizer gels contain a high amount of ethyl alcohol, more than some hard liquor products. Children should be supervised by adults when the product is being used. If the sanitizer is ingested, seek medical attention immediately. Illness symptoms that can occur include depression of the central nervous system, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea. It is for external use only and should be kept away from the eyes. Remember, when used properly, instant hand sanitizers can be very effective against spreading disease.

- Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.

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