Peaches (Prunus persica)

Although its botanical name Prunus persica suggests the peach is native to Persia, it actually originated in China where it has been cultivated since the early days of Chinese culture. Peaches were mentioned in Chinese writings as far back as the tenth century BC and were a favored fruit of emperors.

Peaches may be divided into two general classes: those having a yellow flesh and those having a white flesh. Peaches with white flesh typically are very sweet with little acidity, while yellow-fleshed peaches typically have an acidic tang coupled with sweetness, though this also varies greatly. In each of these classes are found both clingstone and freestone peaches; that is, peaches whose pulp adheres tightly to the seed, or stone, and those in which the pulp can be separated easily from the stone.

Whether to select yellow or white peaches, however, is merely a matter of taste, as some peeople prefer one kind and some the other. Both colours often have some red on their skin. Low-acid white-fleshed peaches are the most popular kinds in China, Japan, and neighbouring Asian countries, while Europeans and North Americans have historically favoured the acidic, yellow-fleshed kinds.

When peaches are purchased for canning or for any use in which it is necessary to remove the seeds, freestones should be selected. Clingstones may be used when the stones are allowed to remain in the fruit, as in pickled peaches, and for jams, preserves, or butters, in which small pieces may be used or the entire peach mashed.

Peaches are not satisfactory for jelly making, because they do not contain pectin. However, the juice of peaches makes a very good sirup if it is sweetened and cooked until it is thick. Such sirup is really just as delicious as maple sirup with griddle cakes.

Peaches are used to a large extent for canning and are also made into preserves, jams, and butters. In addition, they are much used raw.

When they are to be served raw and whole, they should be washed and then wiped with a damp cloth to remove the fuzz. The skins may be removed by blanching the peaches in boiling water or peeling them with a sharp knife. If they are then sliced or cut in any desirable way and served with cream and sugar, they make a delicious dessert.

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Did You Know?
The peach (Prunus persica) is known as a species of Prunus native to China that bears an edible juicy fruit also called a peach. It is a deciduous tree growing to 4–10 m tall, belonging to the subfamily Prunoideae of the family Rosaceae. It is classified with the almond in the subgenus Amygdalus within the genus Prunus, distinguished from the other subgenera by the corrugated seed shell.

The leaves are lanceolate, 7–16 cm long (3–6 in), 2–3 cm broad, pinnately veined. The flowers are produced in early spring before the leaves; they are solitary or paired, 2.5–3 cm diameter, pink, with five petals. The fruit has yellow or whitish flesh, a delicate aroma, and a skin that is either velvety (peaches) or smooth (nectarines) in different cultivars. The flesh is very delicate and easily bruised in some cultivars, but is fairly firm in some commercial varieties, especially when green. The single, large seed is red-brown, oval shaped, approximately 1.3–2 cm long, and is surrounded by a wood-like husk. Peaches, along with cherries, plums and apricots, are stone fruits (drupes).

The scientific name persica, along with the word "peach" itself and its cognates in many European languages, derives from an early European belief that peaches were native to Persia (now Iran). The modern botanical consensus is that they originate in China, and were introduced to Persia and the Mediterranean region along the Silk Road before Christian times.

Depending on climate and cultivar, peach harvest can occur from late May into August; harvest from each tree lasts about a week.