The first peach orchard in North America was established in 1565 in what is now Florida.
Peaches are part of the rose family—so are plums, apricots, and almonds. They can be round or shaped like donuts, with a pit instead of a hole, have yellow or white flesh and skin, and be either clingstone or freestone. Clingstone peach flesh clings to the stone, making it messy to separate, while freestone flesh separates freely from the pit, making freestones easier to eat out of your hand.
The fuzz on peach skins is controlled by single gene. This means that nectarines are a virtually identical species, not a hybrid of peaches and plums as is sometimes thought. Not fond of the fuzz? Skin peaches quickly and neatly by dropping a few at a time into a pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds and then transferring them to cold water immediately. The skins will slip right off in your hand.
The city of Gaffney, South Carolina, built a water tower in the shape of a peach back in 1981. Weighing in at more than 10,000 pounds, it claims to be the world’s largest peach.
In Hungary, peaches are called Fruit Of Calmness. Eating them is believed by some to help reduce anxiety.
Peach seeds taste like bitter almonds, and adding a couple (whole or ground) to peach preserves, syrups, liquors, or baked goods brings out a wonderful depth of flavor. Thought they were poisonous? They do contain hydrocyanic acid which can be poisonous in large amounts, but an adult can safely eat a several seeds a day with no ill effects—more if they’ve been cooked, since cooking partially breaks down the compound.
Despite Georgia’s nickname, more than half come from California.
Peaches are called “stone fruit” because of the hard pits surrounding their seeds. Though you can just toss them in the compost, they do have alternate uses. Pulverized into tiny beads, they’re perfect for use in facial cleansers and are much safer for the environment than plastic microbeads.
Because peach seeds do not bear fruit that is identical to their parent plants, most peaches are grown on grafted trees. However, peach varieties grown in the U.S. don’t have a lot of genetic variation, so if you grow a peach tree from a seed, chances are good the resulting fruit will be pretty tasty.
Peaches originally hail from China. The wild ones are small, sour, and extremely fuzzy. Humans have cultivated them since at least 79 A.D., and they remain a symbol of good luck, protection, and longevity. From China, peaches traveled via trade routes to Persia—where they picked up the scientific name Prunus persica—and then to Europe. They came to the New World with Spanish explorers in the 1600s, travelled west with Spanish missionaries to the American Southwest, and made the crossing a second time with early English settlers to Jamestown and the Massachusetts colonies.