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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

ASPARAGUS TIPS: Rediscovering Peaches in Their Truest, Tastiest Form

While on vacation, I renewed acquaintances with a favorite fruit. Although I have to remind myself to eat reasonable quantities of fruit, there is one type that is so delicious it's hard to believe it's healthy. The peach is one of the most delectable of all fruits, and little beats a perfectly ripe peach naturally bursting with sweetness and juice. Its rich, sticky sweetness provides a refreshing change from more bland fruits, and revives memories of hot summers and cooler autumns.

Peaches are now in season and readily available in supermarkets or my favorite haunt, the local market. They are divided into "freestones," with soft and juicy flesh that separates readily from the pit, and "clingstones," with firmer flesh that adheres tightly to the pit. The nectarine is also a variety of peach.

Peaches are very high in vitamin A and a good source of vitamin C. One medium peach contains .2 grams of fat, 9.6 grams of carbohydrates and no cholesterol. Nectarines are a good source of fiber, and also contain vitamin C.

Peach leaves have a flavor of their own and are sometimes used to flavor custard or to prepare peach leaf ice cream.

Peaches should smell fragrant, be highly colored and, when cradled in the hand, have some give. The red blush on the skin is not in itself an indicator of ripeness, as the change in color occurs before the fruit is mature.

Ripe but firm peaches and nectarines will soften at room temperature. They will not become sweeter, however, because once they are picked the sugar content cannot increase. Avoid very hard, greenish peaches, or very soft fruit with bruises or pale tan spots, which are signs of decay.

With nectarines buy plump, well-colored fruits with a slight softening at the point and along the suture. Avoid any hard, dull and shriveled fruit.

Peaches are highly perishable, so eat the fruit as soon as it is fully softened -- or store it in the refrigerator a day or two in a single layer in a ventilated plastic bag, or in a paper bag.

While on vacation, I prepared a simple dessert of perfectly fresh peaches in syrup with cream and sugar shards. I was unable to purchase any sweet dessert wines, but if you can lay your hands on some botrytis-affected wine -- such as a Sauterne -- splash a little on the peaches before spooning over the syrup. In the following recipe, the rose water is merely an option. I like it, and it added a little Lebanese touch for our host, but you can omit it without detracting from the dish.

It's best to prepare the sugar shards first. Sprinkle a layer of sugar over a foil-lined baking sheet. Place under a hot grill until the sugar melts and turns a pale caramel color. Remove, then break into shards when cold.

Now for the peaches: Dissolve 500 grams of sugar in 1 liter of water with 2 whole cloves, then bring to a boil and add a splash of rose water. Reduce heat to a low simmer and add eight ripe peaches (washed, but with skin on). Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the skin loosens. Remove the peaches and set aside until they are cool enough to handle. Continue simmering the syrup. Skin the peaches and add the skins to the syrup. Bring the syrup back to a boil and reduce until it coats the back of a wooden spoon. Discard the peach skins. Serve whole peaches warm or cold. Spoon the syrup over the peach halves and top with a dollop of whipped cream and a sugar shard.