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The peach tree, Prunus persica, is a deciduous tree, native to China, where it was first cultivated. It bears an edible juicy fruit called a peach. The species name persica refers to its widespread cultivation in Persia, whence it was transplanted to Europe. It is classified with the almond in the subgenus Amygdalus, distinguished from the other subgenera by the corrugated seed shell. It belongs to the subfamily Prunoideae of the family Rosaceae.

Description

Prunus persica grows to 4–10 m (13–33 ft) tall and 6 in. in diameter. The leaves are lanceolate, 7–16 cm (2.8–6.3 in) long, 2–3 cm (0.79–1.2 in) 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). There are various heirloom varieties, including the Indian peach, which arrives in the latter part of the summer [1].

Peaches (edible part)
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 165 kJ (39 kcal)
Carbohydrates 9.5 g
– Sugars 8.4 g
– Dietary fiber 1.5 g
Fat 0.3 g
Protein 0.9 g
Vitamin A equiv. 16 μg (2%)
Folate (vit. B9) 4 μg (1%)
Vitamin C 6.6 mg (8%)
Iron 0.25 mg (2%)
Potassium 190 mg (4%)
Percentages are relative to
US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Taxonomy

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.[2] The botanical name is derived from the Greek word for the fruit after it was introduced into the Mediterranean through Persia and from China.

Cultivated peaches are divided into clingstones and freestones, depending on whether the flesh sticks to the stone or not; both can have either white or yellow 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. 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.

History

Although its botanical name Prunus persica refers to Persia as the Persians introduced the fruit into the Western world, peaches actually originated in China,[3] where they have been cultivated since the early days of Chinese culture, circa 2000 BC.[4][5] Peaches were mentioned in Chinese writings as far back as the 10th century BC and were a favoured fruit of kings and emperors. As of late, the history of cultivation of peaches in China has been extensively reviewed citing numerous original manuscripts dating back to 1100 BC.[6]

Its English name derives originally from the Latin malum persicum, “Persian apple”, which became the French pêche, then peach in Middle English.[7]

The peach was brought to India and Western Asia in ancient times.[8] Peach cultivation also went from China, through Persia, and reached Greece by 300 BC.[5] Alexander the Great introduced the fruit into Europe after he conquered the Persians.[8] Romans began cultivating peaches in the first century AD.[5] Then it was brought to the Americas by Spanish explorers in the 16th century, and eventually made it to England and France in the 17th century, where it was a prized, albeit rare, treat.[citation needed]

The horticulturist George Minifie supposedly brought the first peaches from England to its North American colonies in the early 17th century, planting them at his Estate of Buckland in Virginia.[9]

Although Thomas Jefferson had peach trees at Monticello, United States farmers did not begin commercial production until the 19th century in Maryland, Delaware, Georgia and finally Virginia. California today raises 65 percent of peaches grown for commercial production in the United States,[10] but the states of South Carolina, New Jersey, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Washington also grow a significant amount.[11] Italy, China, India and Greece are major producers of peaches outside of the United States.

In 2010, a team of researchers at Clemson University, in South Carolina, announced they had sequenced the peach tree genome (doubled haploid Lovell).[12][13]

Cultivation

Prunus persica, or peach trees, grow very well in a fairly limited range, since they have a chilling requirement that tropical areas cannot satisfy. The trees themselves can usually tolerate temperatures to around -26 to -30 °C (-15 to -22 °F), although the following season’s flower buds are usually killed at these temperatures, leading to no crop that summer. Flower bud kill begins to occur between -15 and -25 °C (5 and -13 °F), depending on the cultivar (some are more cold-tolerant than others) and the timing of the cold, with the buds becoming less cold tolerant in late winter.[14]

Certain cultivars are more tender, and others can tolerate a few degrees colder. In addition, intense summer heat is required to mature the crop, with mean temperatures of the hottest month between 20 and 30 °C (68 and 86 °F). Another problematic issue in many peach-growing areas is spring frost. The trees tend to flower fairly early in spring. The blooms often can be damaged or killed by freezes; typically, if temperatures drop below about −4 °C (25 °F), most flowers will be killed. However, if the flowers are not fully open, they can tolerate a few degrees colder.

Regions

Important historical peach-producing areas are China, Iran, France, and the Mediterranean countries, such as Italy, Spain and Greece. More recently, the United States (where the three largest producing states are California, South Carolina,[15] and Georgia[16]), Georgia is also known as the “Peach State” because of the production of its peaches.[17] Canada (British Columbia), and Australia (the Riverland region) have also become important; peach growing in the Niagara Peninsula of Ontario, Canada, was formerly intensive, but slowed substantially in 2008 when the last fruit cannery in Canada was closed by the proprietors.[18] Oceanic climate areas, like the Pacific Northwest and coastline of northwestern Europe, are generally not satisfactory for growing peaches due to inadequate summer heat, though they are sometimes grown trained against south-facing walls to catch extra heat from the sun. Trees grown in a sheltered and south-facing position in the southeast of England are capable of producing both flowers and a large crop of fruit. In Vietnam, the most famous variety of peach fruit product is grown in Mẫu Sơn commune, Lộc Bình district, Lạng Sơn province.

For home gardeners, semi-dwarf (3 to 4 m (9.8 to 13 ft)) and dwarf (2 to 3 m (6 ft 7 in to 9 ft 10 in)) varieties have been developed by grafting desirable cultivars onto dwarfing rootstock. Fruit size is not affected. Another mutation is flowering peaches, selected for ornamental display rather than fruit production.

The State of Georgia, in the U.S., has long been known as a mecca for growers and consumers of peaches. In 2012, the peach season is expected to be earlier than usual.[19] Like 2011, 2012 is expected to be a bumper year for peaches in Georgia, reflecting an overall favorable trajectory for peaches generally.[20]

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

Cultivar groups

Nectarines

The nectarine cultivar group of peaches have a smooth skin. It is often referred to as a “shaved peach”, “fuzzy-less peach” or “shaven peach” due to its lack of fuzz or short hairs. Though fuzzy peaches and nectarines are regarded commercially as different fruits, with nectarines often erroneously believed to be a crossbreed between peaches and plums, or a “peach with a plum skin”, nectarines belong to the same species as peaches. Several genetic studies have concluded nectarines are created due to a recessive allele, whereas a fuzzy peach skin is dominant.[21] Nectarines have arisen many times from peach trees, often as bud sports.

As with peaches, nectarines can be white or yellow, and clingstone or freestone. On average, nectarines are slightly smaller and sweeter than peaches, but with much overlap.[21] The lack of skin fuzz can make nectarine skins appear more reddish than those of peaches, contributing to the fruit’s plum-like appearance. The lack of down on nectarines’ skin also means their skin is more easily bruised than peaches.

The history of the nectarine is unclear; the first recorded mention in English is from 1616,[22] but they had probably been grown much earlier within the native range of the peach in central and eastern Asia. Although one source states that Nectarines were introduced into the United States by David Fairchild of the Department of Agriculture in 1906;[23] a number of colonial era newspaper articles make reference to nectarines being grown in the United States prior to the Revolutionary War. The 28 March 1768 edition of the “New York Gazette” (pg 3.), for example, mentions a farm in Jamaica, Long Island, New York, where nectarines were grown.

Peacherines

The Peacherine tree carries large fruit intermediate in appearance between a peach and a nectarine, large and brightly colored like a red peach, with a good flavor. The flesh of the fruit is usually yellow but white varieties also exist.

Peacherines appear to be most readily available in Australia and New Zealand. The Koanga Institute lists varieties that ripen in (Southern hemisphere) February, Late February, and March or during the summer. [24] [25] Edible Garden lists varieties that ripen in January and March. [26]

The Peacherine is variously said to be a cross between a Peach and a Nectarine[24], or between a Peach and an Apricot.[26] The 1909 Pacific Monthly states it originated in Acampo (near Stockton), California:

A man, J. W. Philippi of Acampo, has originated a new fruit known as the “peacherine.” It combines the solidity and flavor of the nectarine with all the good qualities of the peach. It is becoming so well known and liked that calls are coming from all parts of the world for it. Incidentally, proving the value of California land, it is said that the originator of the peacherine has made an annual profit of $2000 from a single acre, notwithstanding that his residence and other buildings are on the same tract.
[27]

Diseases

The trees are prone to a disease called leaf curl, which usually does not directly affect the fruit, but does reduce the crop yield by partially defoliating the tree. The fruit is very susceptible to brown rot, or a dark reddish spot.

Planting

Most peach trees sold by nurseries are named cultivars budded or grafted onto a suitable rootstock. Trees can be grown from either a peach or nectarine seed, but the fruit quality of the resulting tree will be very unpredictable.

Peaches are recommended to be located in full sun, and to allow good air flow, to assist the cold air to flow away on frosty nights and to keep the area cool in summer. Peaches are recommended to be planted in early winter, as this allows time for the roots to establish and to sustain the new spring growth. When planting in rows, it is recommended to plant the rows north to south.[28]

For optimum growth, peach trees prefer a constant supply of water, which should be increased shortly before harvest. The best-tasting fruit is produced when the peach is watered throughout the season. Drip irrigation is ideal, with at least one dripper per tree. Although it is better to use multiple drippers around the tree, this is not necessary.[28] A quarter of the root being watered should be sufficient.

Peaches have a high nutrient requirement, needing more nitrogen than most other fruit trees. An NPK fertilizer should be applied regularly, and an additional mulch of poultry manure in autumn soon after the harvest could benefit the tree. If the leaves of the peach are yellow or small, this is a sign that the tree needs more nitrogen. Blood meal and bone meal, 3–5 kilograms (6.6–11 lb) per mature tree, or calcium ammonium nitrate, 0.5–1 kilogram (1.1–2.2 lb), are suitable fertilizers. This also applies if the tree is putting forth little growth.

If the full number of peaches are left on the branches, they will be under-sized and lacking in sugar and flavour. In dry conditions, extra watering is recommended. The fruit are normally thinned when they have reached 2 centimetres (0.79 in) in diameter, usually about two months after flowering. Fresh fruit are best consumed on the day of picking, and do not store well. They are best eaten when the fruit is slightly soft, having aroma, and heated by the sun.

Storage

Peaches should be stored at room temperature and refrigeration should be avoided as this can lessen the taste of the peach. Peaches are climacteric[29] [30] [31] and hence they will continue ripening after being picked from the tree.

Cultural significance

Peaches are known in China, Japan, Korea, Laos, and Vietnam, not only as a popular fruit, but also for the many cultural traditions, such as the Peaches of Immortality, and folk tales associated with it.

Peach blossoms are highly prized in Chinese culture, and because they appear before leaves sprout. The ancient Chinese believed the peach to possess more vitality than any other tree. When early rulers of China visited their territories, they were preceded by sorcerers armed with peach rods to protect them from spectral evils. On New Year’s Eve, local magistrates would cut peach wood branches and place them over their doors to protect against evil influences.[33] Peach kernels (桃仁 táo rén) are a common ingredient used in traditional Chinese medicine to dispel blood stasis, counter inflammation and reduce allergies.[34]

It was in an orchard of flowering peach trees that Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei took an oath of brotherhood in the opening chapter of the classic Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Another peach forest, the “Peach Blossom Spring” by poet Tao Yuanming is the setting of the favourite Chinese fable and a metaphor of utopias. A peach tree growing on a precipice was where the Taoist master Zhang Daoling tested his disciples.[35]

Momotaro, one of Japan’s most noble and semihistorical heroes, was born from within an enormous peach floating down a stream. Momotaro or “Peach Boy” went on to fight evil oni and face many adventures.

In Korea, peaches have been cultivated from ancient times. According to Samguk Sagi, peach trees were planted during the Three Kingdoms of Korea period, and Sallim gyeongje also mentions cultivation skills of peach trees. Peach is seen as the fruit of happiness, riches, honours and longevity. It is one of the ten immortal plants and animals, so peaches appear in many minhwa (folk paintings). Peaches and peach trees are believed to chase away spirits, so peaches are not placed on tables for jesa (ancestor veneration), unlike other fruits.[36][37]

A Vietnamese mythic history states that, in the spring of 1789, after marching to Ngọc Hồi and then winning a great victory against invaders from the Qing Dynasty of China, the King Quang Trung ordered a messenger to gallop to Phú Xuân citadel (now Huế) and deliver a flowering peach branch to the Princess Ngọc Hân. This took place on the fifth day of the first lunar month, two days before the predicted end of the battle. The branch of peach flowers that was sent from the north to the centre of Vietnam was not only a message of victory from the King to his wife, but also the start of a new spring of peace and happiness for all the Vietnamese people. In addition, since the land of Nhật Tân had freely given that very branch of peach flowers to the King, it became the loyal garden of his dynasty.

It was a by peach tree that the protagonists of the Tale of Kieu fell in love. And in Vietnam, the blossoming peach flower is the signal of spring. Finally, peach bonsai trees are used as decoration during Vietnamese New Year (Tết) in northern Vietnam.

Nutrition and research

A medium peach is 75 g (2.6 oz). It should have 30 Cal, 7 g of carbohydrate (6 g sugars and 1 g fibre), 1 g of protein, 140 mg of potassium, and 8% of the daily value (DV) for vitamin C.[38]

As with many other members of the rose family, peach seeds contain cyanogenic glycosides, including amygdalin (note the subgenus designation: Amygdalus). These substances are capable of decomposing into a sugar molecule and hydrogen cyanide gas. While peach seeds are not the most toxic within the rose family, that dubious honour going to the bitter almond, large doses of these chemicals from any source are hazardous to human health.

Peach allergy or intolerance is a relatively common form of hypersensitivity to proteins contained in peaches and related fruit (almonds). Symptoms range from local symptoms (e.g. oral allergy syndrome, contact urticaria) to systemic symptoms, including anaphylaxis (e.g. urticaria, angioedema, gastrointestinal and respiratory symptoms).[39] Adverse reactions are related to the “freshness” of the fruit: peeled or canned fruit may be tolerated.

Phenolic composition

Total phenolics in mg/100 g of fresh weight were 14-102 in white-flesh nectarines, 18-54 in yellow-flesh nectarines, 28-111 in white-flesh peaches, 21-61 in yellow-flesh peaches.[40] The major phenolic compounds identified in peach are chlorogenic acid, (+)-catechin and (-)-epicatechin.[41] Other compounds, identified by HPLC, are gallic acid, neochlorogenic acid, procyanidin B1 and B3, procyanidin gallates, ellagic acid.[42]

Rutin and isoquercetin are the primary flavonols found in Clingstone peaches.[43]

Red-fleshed peaches are rich in anthocyanins[44] of the cyanidin-3-O-glucoside type in six peach and six nectarine cultivars[45] and of the malvin type in the Clingstone variety.[43]

Written on June 7th, 2012 , Fruits Tags:

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