Nutrition Corner: How to ripen peaches the right way

Nutrition Corner - Mary Ehret

I bought some unripe peaches and tomatoes. The thought ran through my mind — will the tomatoes ripen the peaches? On the other hand, will the peaches ripen the tomatoes?

Have you ever reached for that peach, only to find out it has turned old, slimy, brown, soft or mealy? You might have blamed yourself in saying you do not know how to select the best peaches. The problem might be how you stored the peaches.

Ethylene gas is a naturally occurring hormone. It is odorless, colorless, and made by fruits and vegetables as they ripen. It helps the plant by ripening its fruit, opening its flowers, and shedding its leaves. It is not harmful to humans.

The most common example is the ethylene gas given off by bananas as they ripen and turn from green to yellow. In general, fruits that continue to ripen after picked are the ones that produce high levels of ethylene gas.

If you store an ethylene-sensitive fruit or vegetable next to an ethylene-producing fruit, you can lower the fruit’s quality and its shelf life. Also, the more damaged or bruised a fruit, the more ethylene gas it gives off. Most tree fruits produce large amounts of ethylene, particularly apples and pears. Other high ethylene producers are apricots, avocados, bananas, cantaloupes, and peaches. Peppers and tomatoes also produce ethylene, but only when they are fully ripe.

Ripe peaches will last longer if you refrigerate them. Keep in the refrigerator for up to one week. I like to buy them when they are ripe and ready to eat. However, store them in a closed paper bag to ripen. It should take about one to three days. Beware of storing them close to ethylene-producing fruit. Remember, store unripe peaches on the counter out of direct sunlight.

If your tomatoes need further ripening, keep them in a warm place, but not in direct sunlight, for 5-7 days. Store cut tomatoes in a refrigerator for 2-3 days.

Once ripen, enjoy peaches. They are loaded with fiber, vitamins and minerals for just a few calories. One medium peach has only 70 calories.

If you have a sweet tooth at breakfast, try baking a peach crisp. Serve with vanilla low fat yogurt or a glass of skim milk to add protein and calcium. Refrigerate and pop in the microwave for a warm morning quick breakfast.

Peach Crisp

6 medium to large ripe peaches, washed and sliced with the skins on ( or two 15 oz. Cans of peaches drained and rinsed)

1 Tablespoon cornstarch or flour

¼ Teaspoon ground cloves

1 Teaspoon cinnamon

Dash of nutmeg

1 Cup oats

¼ Cup white whole wheat or whole wheat flour

¼ Cup brown sugar

2 Tablespoons reduced fat margarine or cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350. In an 8 x 8 baking dish, place the peaches and then mix the cornstarch, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg and sprinkle over the fruit. Mix the remaining ingredients and sprinkle over the fruit. If using cooking spray, mix all the ingredients less the spray, sprinkle over the fruit, and then just very lightly spray the top. Bake for 45 minutes.

Note, extra topping can be made and kept in the freezer for a quick crisp. Apples and blueberries can be substituted, as well. Makes 6-8 servings.

Nutrition Corner

Mary Ehret