Donut peaches are uniquely shaped peaches that look remarkably like their namesake because they are somewhat flattened and have a depression in the middle that suggests a donut hole. In addition to having a distinctive appearance, these peaches also have a special flavor, with a sweet tenderness and faint hint of almond that some consumers find enjoyable.
The origins of the donut peach are in Asia, where flat peaches have been cultivated for centuries. In the mid-1800s, several varieties were exported to the United States, and Chinese flat peaches, as they were called, became popular for a brief time. The fruits fell out of fashion, however, and the flat peach was considered an essentially lost heirloom variety until the 1990s, when it began to enter widespread cultivation again.
The skin of donut peaches is creamy yellow with a faint red blush, and the flesh is pure white. Their flavor is less acidic than some peach cultivars, and they also are extremely juicy. They tend to be less fuzzy than some other cultivars, reminding some consumers of nectarines. Peaches and nectarines are actually separate fruits, although they are closely related.
Some stores market donut peaches as saucer peaches or Saturns — a reference to their unusual shape. These peaches generally are more expensive than traditional peaches because they are sort of a novelty item, but they can be used just like regular peaches in pies and fruit salads in addition to being eaten plain. To select a good donut peach in the market, a consumer should look for a peach that has relatively even coloring and no soft or slimy spots. The peach should yield slightly when squeezed, but it should not be mushy or especially firm.
When handling donut peaches, one should remember that they bruise easily, like all peaches. They can be left out on the counter to ripen if they are not yet perfect. They can be refrigerated for as long as three days after they have become fully ripe. Storing the peaches in a paper bag can help prevent insect infestation and over-ripening.