Peach Facts

Peach Facts

The peach ( Prunus persica vulgaris) is from the Rosaceae or rose family. Other fruits in this family include the plum, cherry, and almond. Nectarines and peaches are considered in the same species. The difference between nectarines and peaches is that peaches have a fuzzy skin, while nectarines have a smooth skin. In both, the skin is edible and tasty. Nectarines are a variety of peach and a cross between peaches and plums.
 
This fruit is typically 2 ½ to 3 ½ inches in diameter and yellow, orange, or red in color and round or oval in shape. The skin has a partition line where it easily splits the fruit in half. The pits are perforated with small holes or ribbed. The flesh varies from yellow to white, with some that are red. The texture depends on soil, climate, and cultivar. Skin color can be dull green or shades of yellow or orange to dark red.
 
The scientific name persica refers to the widespread cultivation in Persia. The Latin name means "Persian plum." Cultivation also spread to the rest of the world fairly early in history. This juicy fruit contains an inedible pit at the center and, therefore, is considered a "drupe." It shares similarities to other fruits in the drupe category, including nectarines and plums and, surprisingly, almonds. The name "peach" is also used in several English sayings. "It's peachy" is a common saying when all is going well. When describing someone who is remarkable, "she’s a peach!" is common.
 
The peach tree has significant industrial and agriculture importance because of the fruit it bears. Recently there has been an increase in growth of certain varieties as flowering plants, for their blossoming branches as ornaments. There are also  thousands of varieties of peaches. The nectarine is also in the family but has a smooth skin. A peacherine is a cross between a peach and nectarine and is common in New Zealand and Australia. The flat peach or pan-tao is similar in flavor and color to the peach but is flattened in appearance.
 
Worldwide, significant peach producing regions include China (with 11.9 million tons produced in 2013), the Mediterranean (i.e. Italy, Spain, and Greece), and the United States. Peaches are produced in 36 of the 50 states, which is uncommon for most fruits that are usually produced in a specific state or region. California, South Carolina, and Georgia are top producers in the US. California leads the states in production, producing 99% of cling form peaches. Georgia is known as the Peach State because it was one of the first states to enter the peach industry, with commercial production starting in the mid-1800s.
 
Peach trees can also be planted in your home garden!  They are often sold in nurseries as budded varieties or grafted onto a suitable rootstock. Common rootstocks are Citation, Lovell Peach, Nemaguard Peach, and Prunus besseyi. Buying a reputable cultivar from a greenhouse improves the fruit quality. The tree needs full sun and good natural airflow. They are planted in early winter and will need regular watering during the season with higher amounts of water just before harvest. They do best with nitrogen-rich fertilizers, for example, blood meal, bone meal, or calcium ammonium nitrate. Without this nitrogen, the leaves will turn yellow or have stunted growth. The number of flowers on a tree is typically thinned out, because if the full number of peaches are allowed to mature this will lead to peaches that are undersized and lacking in flavor. The flowers are thinned midway in the season.  Peaches have the best flavor if consumed on the day of harvest.

Varieties of Peaches

There are more than 5,000 different varieties in the world. The varieties are categorized as either "clingstone," with a firm flesh that adheres to the stone, or "freestone," where the inedible stone can be easily removed and the flesh is soft and juicy.
 
Clingstone  peaches are early bearers and are often used for canning, freezing, and preserves. Some clingstone varieties include; Tuscan, Phillips Cling, Chinese Cling, Sullivan Cling, Peak, Sims, Walton, and Libbee. Freestones are mostly sold fresh. Some freestone varieties include Alberta, Halehaven, Golden Jubilee, Redhaven, Dixired, Dixigen, Sullivan, Keystone, Early Alberta, Rio-Oso-Gem, Sunhighg, Jerseyland and Belle of Georgia. Some varieties are partially clingstone and freestone, and are called semi-free. The flesh of the peach may be deep yellow to creamy white; the shade and hue depend on the variety. The yellow-fleshed peaches are popular in European and North American countries.
 
There are also white-fleshed peaches that are savored for their sweet, luscious flavor, fragrance, and color. They have occurred in nature for thousands of years and have been cultivated for a few hundred years. Records have showed that white flesh varieties can be traced to the mid-1600s. Some white flesh varieties are Babcock, White Lady, and Sugar Giant, which are all freestone. These are popular in China, Japan, and other Asian countries.
 
Another variety is the Flat or Donut peach, which was first grown in the United States in the 1800s. These peaches are originally from China and are flat, round, and drawn in at the center. The skin is pale yellow, with a red blush and a small pit. The flavor is just as sweet and juicy as that of a typical peach.
 
Scientists have long been peach breeding to bring out the desired qualities. They focus on varieties with more firmness, more red peel color, and shorter fuzz on the outside of the peach. These are characteristics that improve eye appeal and improve ease of shipping. It is important to note that this selective breeding does not necessarily lead to increased flavor or juiciness. In general, peaches have a short shelf life. Therefore, commercial growers typically mix different varieties to have an ample supply of fruit to ship throughout the season.
 
Some popular varieties include:  
  • Elberta – from seed in Georgia in 1870, most popular in America, large, yellow, juicy, freestone flesh, self-fruitful, good pollinator
    • Sub-selections include Early Elberta, Fantastic Elberta, Com-pact Elberta, Fay Elberta
  • Glohaven – introduced in the 1950s-1960s, large, uniform, predominantly red skin, with yellow hues, and pale yellow firm flesh, used in canning
  • Golden Jubilee - favorite of home gardeners and commercial growers, freestone
  • Hale – popular American variety, highly productive, big, round, orange-yellow skin with red hues, yellow flesh
  • Harbelle, Harbite, Harcrest, Harken – disease resistant, developed at the Harrow Research Station in Canada
  • Loadel – California variety, medium sized fruits, orange-yellow with red hues, orange-yellow flesh, firm, sweet, good in canning
  • Lugo Beautiful – originated from Romagna, Italy, a popular variety in North America
  • Peregrine – bush tree, yellow-white flesh, excellent flavor, freestone, midseason
  • Red Haven – one of the early peaches, best in northern and central regions, developed in Michigan, exceptional quality, late flowering, clingstone, used in canning
    • Sub-selections include Com-pact Red Haven, Hale Haven
  • Redskin - favorite of home gardeners and commercial growers, freestone
  • Reliance - favorite of home gardeners and commercial growers, freestone
  • Rio Oso Gem – freestone, eaten fresh or frozen