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The Peach, Most Versatile of Fruit

By Edited Jan 27, 2016 0 0

     What fruit besides the peach can be eaten whole like an apple, sliced with cream, dried, stewed, pickled, canned, distilled into a fine liqueur, cooked into pie or jam or frozen into delicious ice cream?

     Due to its amazing versatility and unsurpassed flavor and texture, the peach ranks near the top in popularity in America.  We show our high regard for the fruit by complimenting a young lady on her " peaches-and-cream" complexion; to describe the lady herself as a peach is also flattering, if less subtle.

     Some ancient Chinese writers called the peach the tree of life, some the tree of death; others thought it symbolized longevity.  The pink peach blossom was associated with feminine promiscuity and growers were warned not to plant peach trees near windows of a lady's boudoir. 

     "Peach": is based ona  latin word meaning Persian.  the scientific name, Prunus Persia, also implies Persian origin; in fact, peaches used to be called "Persian apples."  But the 2,000-year-old belief that persian was the home of the peach has not withstood scientific scrutiny.

     Lack of mention in early Hebrew or in Sanskrit literature suggested the fruit was unknown from Persia to western India about 1500 B.C. Chinese literature makes note of the peaches before 2000 B.C.  In China, botanists found many types which appeared native there, yet had all the characteristics of the western fruit.  Also, Most experts now agree that China is undoubtedly the native home of the peach.  The species probably ranged from Turkistan as far as the eastern coast. 

     Exactly how and when it reached Persia is not known, but it probably traveled from China along caravan routed of the pre-Christian era.  By 332 B.C. it reached Greece, where it was described as a persian fruit.  Virgil (70-19 B.C.) was the first Roman to mention the peach. It's culture then spread over temperate parts of Europe.  The Spaniards probably planted the first peach in the new World;  by 1571 three types were growing in Mexico.  The French in Louisiana, the english at Jamestown and Massachusetts, and others planted peaches soon after settlement.  Indians carried the new food supply inland. 

     Practically all varieties now grown in this country started here, most through chance discovery of superior trees among seedlings.  In the past 50 years State and Federal experiment statins and some private researchers have been systematically breeding peaches to develop quality varieties.

     Some of the best thin-skinned, soft-fleshed ones, like the Cumberland and Golden Jubilee, are so delicate they may be damaged in handling and shipping long distances to market.  The peach is thus a favorite in small orchards and even back yards. 

     Besides trouble with diseases and insects, the peach is not the hardiest of trees.  Buds are often killed by temperatures of 10 degrees below zero F., and drops to 20 degrees below often kill the trees.  Most varieties also need a  long dormant season to start normal growth n spring.

     Peaches do best on the Pacific coast, especially in California; along the Atlantic seaboard from Georgia to Massachusetts; and in the Great lakes region of new York, Ohio, and Michigan. 

     The nectarine is a fuzzless peach not widely grown in the United States, indistinguishable from the peach in tree, leaf, or flower, it has fruits similar in shape and pit, or stone.  Both have white-, yellow-, and red-fleshed varieties.

     Nectarines are usually smaller, firmer-fleshed, more aromatic, and richer-flavored than the peach.  They originate as true breeding mutations of the peach, and have been esteemed in the Old World for more than 2,000 years.  But because their skin makes them vulnerable to insects, disease, and cracking, they are not as successful as peaches in the humid eastern United States.  They reach market in limited quantities, mainly shipped from the western States.




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