Peach – the well-travelled fruit

The juicy, tasty peach is a very well-travelled fruit. First cultivated in Eastern China – possibly as far back as neolithic times – its botanical name is Prunus persica.

Persica references the fact that it was later cultivated widely throughout Persia, after being domesticated in Japan and before being taken to Europe. The name was attached to the fruit by ancient Romans who called it the Persian apple, thinking it had originated in Persia (now Iran).

Botanical names are always useful to take apart. Prunus is the ‘genus’, which means ‘class, kind, or group marked by one or more common characteristics’. In the case of the peach, others in the Prunus group include the cherry, apricot, plum, and almond.

The almond? Yes – because of the peach’s corrugated seed shell or stone. In fact, the kernel of a peach stone has a taste very like the almond and is used to make a version of marzipan called persipan.

Peaches and nectarines are the same species though nectarines’ skin isn’t fuzzy. It’s thought a genetic mutation gives peaches their fuzz.

The world consumes nearly 25 million tonnes of peaches each year. That’s a lot of fuzz!