Native to China is the peach tree, which is famous for its edible and juicy fruits called a peach. Peach trees are deciduous and grow up to 4 – 10 metres tall. Its leaves are long at between 7 – 16 cm long, and 2-3 cm broad. Its flowers grow in the spring time before the leaves and are pink. The famous peach fruit has either whitish or yellow flesh, a beautiful aroma, and a skin that is either velvety (peaches) or smooth (nectarines). The flesh of the fruit is easily bruised but some ar equite firm. Its seed is red-brown, oval shaped, and is around 1.3 to 2cm long. The seed is surrounded by a wood-like husk, and is categorised as as stone fruit.
Peaches at the market
Although native to China, its scientific name is Prunus persica. This is because many early Europeans believed tht peaches were native to Persia (modern day iran). However, modern botanists now know that they were from China and introduced to Persia and the rest of the Mediterranean region via the Silk Road some time before 0 BC. In fact, they have been cultivated since the early days of Chinese culture, as peaches were mentioned in Chinese writing as far back as the 10th century BC. However, some manuscripts dating back to 1100 BC were recently uncovered where peaches were cited numerous times.
Alexander the Great introduced the peach tree to Europe when he conquered Persia. This fruit was then brought to America by Spanish explorers in the 16th century, and then to England and France in the 17th century where it became a prized and rare treat. George Minifie, a horticulturalist, supposedly brought the peach fruit to North American colonies in the 17th century from England, and planted them at his Estate of Buckland in Virginia. After this, several American Indian tribes spread the peach tree across the USA as they took the seeds along with them and planted them as they roamed the country. It is known that President Thomas Jefferson had peach trees in Monticello, but US farmers did not being commercial peach production unti the 19th century in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and Georgia. Today, California grows 65% of the peaches grown for commercial production in the USA followed by Washington, Michigan, and Colorado. Outside of the USA, Italy, India, china, and Greece are the world’s major producers.
A peach tree
Peaches that are cultivated are divided into 2 groups – clingstones and freestones. The group they are categorised in depends on whether the flesh of the peach sticks to the stones or not. Typically, peaches have either whitish flesh or yellow-fleshed. White fleshed peaches are sweet with little acidity, while yellow-fleshed ones are tangy and sweet. White-fleshed peaches are popular in China and other Asian nations, however Europeans and North Americans have historically preferred the yellow-fleshed variety.
A medium-sized peach is about 75 grams. It also has 30 calories, 7g of carbohydrates (6g sugar, 1g fibre), 1g protein, 140mg potassium, and 8% of what you need for vitamin C a day. People do not eat the peach seed as it contains cyanogenic glycosides such as amygdalin which can be hazardous to health in large doses.