As hard as it might be to believe, fall officially starts in two weeks. That makes right now a great time to enjoy the last of the summer’s produce. While crops like tomatoes and melons have suffered more from Tropical Storm Irene and the recent deluges of rain, much of the season’s stone fruit is still intact.
At Red Jacket Orchards, farm operations Vice President Mike Biltonen says its crop of donut peaches is doing just fine. The farm is in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York and was fortunately not in the path of the recent storms.
Wet weather aside, though, donut peaches will only be in season for another week or so. A smaller, squat cousin of traditional round peaches, the fruit has firmer flesh and separates neatly from the pit. Biltonen says they’re more difficult to grow because they crack and they’re more susceptible to certain types of disease.
The upside is that donut peaches can be incredibly sweet, and they tend to keep for a few days longer. They come in four different types: there are yellow-flesh, white, golden and green translucent donut peaches.
“It wasn’t really until the '90s [when] tree fruit growers — particularly on the East Coast, but also California to a large degree — needed to diversify their operations, and so in the ‘90s they started to take off,” said Biltonen, adding that donut peaches were originally discovered in China and made their way to the United States in 1869. “They’re still a very minor crop on the peach scene.”
In particular, he notes that the green translucent donut peach Red Jacket Orchards grows is very sweet, despite having the look of being unripe. Nicknamed the yoyo peach, it is a lesser-known variety. Biltonen warns that many commercially produced peaches are bred for color alone and, as a result, offer very little in flavor.
When selecting a ripe peach, Biltonen recommends first buying from a local farmer — that’s the best way to ensure the fruit isn’t selected for its ability to be shipped across the country. Whether at the farm stand or at the supermarket, he says to pick a peach that simply smells, well, peachy.
“Just use your nose, because the nose knows,” he said.
If the peach feels like it might need a few days sitting out on the counter, that’s okay.
“You can also have a peach that’s fully mature, which [means] it’s gone through its maturation process,” he explained. “It’s developed its sugars and all the other flavors that it has there, and what it really needs is a little time on the counter, two or three days at room temperature so that the texture comes around.”
When it comes to donut peaches, there’s one recipe that immediately comes to mind: donut peach donuts. Try blogger Cathy Erway’s recipe for them below.
- 6 donut peaches, carefully pitted without cutting the rest of the fruit
- 1 egg
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup beer
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- about 4 cups canola oil (or enough to submerge)
Bring oil to about 375 degrees. It should be slightly sizzling. Whisk together the egg, flour, beer, salt and sugar. Dunk the pitted donuts into the batter to coat completely.
Test if oil is hot enough to deep-frying by dropping a dollop of batter in first. If it sizzles up and turns golden brown within a couple seconds, it’s ready. Shake a little batter off each peach and deep-fry in batches of two or three at a time. (You’ll want to keep the oil consistently hot, and adding more peaches will lower its temperature.) Once golden brown, after approximately 5 to 10 seconds, transfer to paper towels to drain. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream optional.