“The peach-bud glows, the wild bee hums, and the wind-flowers wave in graceful gladness.” — Lucy Larcom

Summer is a glorious season to be a conscious cook! Of all the nourishing and natural summer crops, freshly picked peaches are my favorite. Fresh summer peaches are so lovely, their fuzzy skin tinted a gorgeous hue of golden-orange. Their scent, a delicate yet distinctive perfume, is the very essence of perfection.

Peaches add vivacious flavor to both sweet and savory preparations. Salads are elevated to standout status when peaches are involved. Pair peach slices with burrata cheese or an extra ripe and runny brie, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and raspberry or peach infused balsamic vinegar. A sprinkle of sea salt and a grinding of fresh black pepper will finish off the dish, though a handful of chopped pistachios or almonds will add a pleasing crunchy note.

Peaches can be grilled, baked, broiled, sautéed, blended or served au naturel. A simple, ripe, peach is a sublime, satisfying snack. Peaches are 85 percent water and will provide refreshing hydration on brutally warm days. Containing no cholesterol, saturated fat or sodium, fresh peaches are also low in calories and high in beneficial fiber.

Peaches belong at summer picnics. Prepare a superb summer sandwich by slicing a crisp baguette in half lengthwise. Spread each half with goat or cream cheese blended with chives, parsley and dill. Place thin peach and tomato slices atop the cheese, drizzle with white balsamic vinegar, season with salt and pepper and place the other baguette half on top. If you were in the mood, you could add a layer of prosciutto, Speck or Serrano ham. Wrap tightly and the sandwich is ready for transport.

Finely chopped peaches mixed with jalapeno pepper, lime juice, cilantro, basil, and diced tomato make a salsa that will have grilled fish or chicken sparkling with sweet heat. Slowly simmered peaches mixed with brown sugar, smoked paprika and cider vinegar become a barbecue sauce that will infuse grilled pork with exceptional flavor.

Fresh peaches can be added to any baked good; including pancakes, muffins, tea breads, scones, or shortcakes. For a bowlful of beautiful goodness, mix peach slices with fresh seasonal berries and chunks of melon, drizzle with raspberry or peach liqueur, and add chopped mint.

Not just another pretty face, peaches are a powerhouse of nutrition. Rich in vitamin C, E, and A, eating more peaches may help strengthen the immune system, stimulate hair and nail growth, as well as moisturizing and soothing sun damaged skin. Peaches may be quite calming for the body, soothing upset tummies, providing natural stress relief and bringing relief from inflammatory issues.

Revel in the joys of summer and the perfection of peaches as you prepare a delicious life!

Perfect Peach BBQ Sauce

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

1 small sweet onion, finely diced

3 cloves finely minced garlic

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

2 cups peeled, chopped peaches

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1 6 ounce can of tomato paste

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

sea salt

black pepper

In a saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onion until golden and soft. Add garlic, ginger and peaches and cook for several minutes. Do not let garlic brown. Reduce heat to low and add remaining ingredients. Stir well and let cook until mixture has thickened, approximately 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Let cool and using an immersion blender or regular blender, blend mixture until very smooth.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook,” writes about preparing a delicious life and presents healthy food workshops throughout New England. She is a professional cook, organic gardener, and a graduate of The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teacher’s College.