PITTSFIELD — You may have spotted them on Instagram, at your favorite farm stand or in a cooking magazine and wondered, "What are these funny-looking fruits? Short, squat and a bit less fuzzy than regular peaches, donut peaches — also known as UFO, flying saucer, flat and Saturn peaches — seem to be one of the latest food fads.
"It has a white flesh that is very flavorful, very delicate," said Alana Chernila, the marketing/events manager at Guido's Fresh Marketplace in Pittsfield and Great Barrington. "It has a strong aroma, like smelling a flower. Eating one is a complex and lovely taste experience."
She added there are many varieties of donut peaches, but they all are central in the shape and are always small and flat. They are also freestone peaches — having a small pit that "pops out easily" when the fruit is cut in half. Freestone fruits are nice when making a pie, she said, because there is a lot less fruit wasted.
But donut peaches aren't for baking, Chernila said. "Enjoy them fresh and sliced. They're nice to have as a dessert alone; maybe served with almonds and chocolate for a nice dessert plate. They're so nice and delicate."
The donut peaches have delicate skin, she said, which is ideal for people who adverse to the fuzzy skin on a regular peach. "A good wash will get rid of it," she said.
"They're fun to eat and such a treat," she said. Donut peaches are available from the end of July through the beginning of fall.
According to Chernila, this summer is a great peach season in general. "There are amazing peaches right now. I've been eating several a day. People should start to eat at least one peach a day."
For baking, Chernila advised using the classic yellow peach, saving the white-flesh peaches for eating fresh or poaching in wine. "Peaches are great grilled and topped with vanilla ice cream. Or, grill them, chop them up and serve them with a grilled pork chop." She said one of her favorites dishes is raw peaches and raw corn in a salad with basil and jalapeno, topped with some lime juice. It's one of my favorite things."
"Peaches end up being great ingredients in so many things, like peach barbecue sauce; they can be added to any salad or you can get creative, like putting slice peaches, ricotta and honey on toast."
With their weird shape, consumers might think there's something funny going on with the flat peaches' breeding. But flat peaches aren't genetically-modified, Chuck Wandrei, co-owner of Jaeschke's Orchard in Adams, said, adding the peaches were hybridized by Rutgers University.
According to an article published in August 2018 on bonappetit.com, donut peaches are the descendants of wild pan tao (also called peento) peaches from China, which were introduced to the U.S almost 150 years ago.
The trees are more resistant than other varieties to bacterial leaf spot, and require less pruning and spraying, Wandrei said.
Jaeschke's Orchard, which has 50 regular peach trees, has three flat yellow-flesh peach trees that were planted about four years ago, The trees yielded a bushel of the fruit at the beginning of August. Although he said the fruit wasn't a big seller for Jaeschke's, they did sell out of them this year.
"They have a very small pit," he said. " I like to eat them because of their small size. I can eat one, or two or three. Unlike eating a bigger peach, it won't spoil my supper."
PEACH AND COCONUT MILKSHAKE
(Courtesy of Robin Anish)
3 ripe medium-sized peaches, peeled and diced
4 cups vanilla ice cream
1 cup cold coconut milk
Juice of one lime
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sweetened whipped cream
Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour into chilled glasses, top with whipped cream and a sprinkling of coconut.