It almost got by us, but August is National Peach Month! Established in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan, National Peach Month celebrates the role peaches play in the US food supply and our economy. To celebrate this wonderful fruit, today’s post is all about peaches!
Origin: The peach originated in China and was probably the first fruit crop to be domesticated in the country, about 4000 years ago. Chinese writings mention peaches as far back as the 10th century B.C.E, where texts reveal that they were a favorite fruit of the emperors. From China, peaches traveled west to Persia, where they received their botanical name Prunus persica. Eventually, Alexander the Great had the honor of officially introducing peaches to Europe.
Spanish explorers are credited with bringing the peach to South America, England, and France. It wasn’t until the early 17th century that the peach was finally brought to the North American colonies by English horticulturist, George Minifie.
Botanical: The Peach (Prunus persica) is a deciduous tree that grows to 4-10 meters tall and produces a fruit (also called a peach) that has a yellow or white flesh. Peaches, along with cherries, plums and apricots are stone fruits – fruits with flesh or pulp enclosing a stone or “pit”.
Cultivated peaches are divided into two varieties, clingstone or freestones. The variety depends on whether the peach’s flesh sticks to the stone or not. Clingstones are softer, juicier, and sweeter than freestones, which make them perfect to eat them as snacks. Although freestones are harder and less sweet, they’re great for baking because they can maintain their firmness when exposed to heat.
Peaches are climacteric fruits, meaning that they can ripen after being picked from the tree. They won’t get any sweeter (since the development of sugar is an effect of maturity), but they will become softer, more fragrant and more complex in flavor over time.
If your peaches are too hard, wait a few days for them to soften. Remember to keep them at room temperature, away from sunlight and heat. A great trick to speed up the ripening process is to place them in a paper bag.
- As Rachael Ray puts it, “A nectarine is basically a bald peach.” Early botanists noticed that nectarines sometimes appeared on a peach tree, or vice versa. While commercially regarded as different fruits, peaches and nectarines are the same species. The difference comes down to one recessive allele.
- Peaches are part of the rose family.
- Although Georgia is known as the Peach State, California is actually the largest producer of peaches in the U.S.
- Donut peaches are a real thing! Their official name is the Saturn peach.
Nutrition: Whether you’re watching your waistline or just craving something sweet, peaches make a perfect low calorie snack (at only 58 calories for a medium size peach). Peaches, along with other fruits and vegetables, are nutrient powerhouses loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Peaches in particular are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, both which play an important role in immunity.
Recipe: Here is a recipe for peach salsa from the blog Natasha’s Kitchen! This sweet and savory salsa that goes well with grilled meats such as fish or chicken. You can also eat it alone with tortilla chips.
Now that you know more about them, peaches should taste even sweeter than before. Enjoy them while they’re still in season!