Peaches originate from the China mainland. Alexander the Great brought them back to Greece. They survive well in temperate climates across the Mediterranean and the Spaniards introduced them to the Americas. Grown on trees, peaches have three growth stages. The first stage lasts from full bloom until 50 days later. This is when the fruit grows rapidly. In stage two, the pit inside begins to harden, but the rate of overall growth almost stagnates. In stage three, often called the “final sweet” stage, the fruit grows again and begins to get its rich color. It retains water and plumps up. This is when the sugars are retained in the fruit.
The largest, most colorful fruit are on the outside of the tree where sunshine and rain are more abundant. Peaches are a spring fruit, and are highly susceptible to frost. Many crops have been ruined by a late freeze that can burn the fruit in its first stage. Peach trees need soil fairly high in nutrients, especially nitrogen. But scientific studies have not confirmed higher nitrogen content will produce larger fruit.
Consumers, especially Americans, are demanding larger fruit than they were a few decades ago. There should be 30-45 leaves to get good fruit size according to old time orchard growers. So does the time you choose to thin out the fruit. There is evidence that early thinning can accelerate the maturity cycle and produce larger fruit.
To grow healthy peaches you need good sunlight but you do not need cross pollination between trees. A peach tree is self pollinating, so you only need one in your garden.
Nutritional Content of Peaches
One large peach, about 100 grams has:
Potassium 310 g
Vitamin A 880 UI
Vitamin C 8 mg
Calcium 8 mg
Carbohydrates 12 mg
Fiber 2.2 g
Peach Health Benefits
Peaches are high in a number of nutrients your body needs such as niacin, thiamine, potassium and calcium. They are also high in beta carotene, an antioxidant that converts to Vitamin A, which is essential for healthy hearts and eyes. The darker the peach’s color, the more Vitamin A it has in its pulp. The antioxidants may also help in maintaining healthy urinary and digestive functions.
Peach tea is known in Eastern cultures to be a kidney cleanser and uses in detoxification. This isn’t peach flavored tea, but a brew made from the pits. Many people claim peaches are good for relief of stomach ulcers and other digestive issues like colitis and kidney disease. This may be due to their high fiber and potassium content.
People who are sensitive to or on a low potassium diet should consult their physicians before adding peaches to their diet.
Tips for Preparing Peaches
Peaches are best eaten raw. When they are cooked or boiled, they lose up to 80% of their nutrients, especially Vitamin C. People do cook and can them since in their raw state they rot fairly quickly after picking. But they are often canned with sugar syrup, which ups the caloric levels.
Peaches can be skinned then boiled with cloves for a pickled treat. Dried peaches should be avoided as many, especially from China, contain sulfur.
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Creative Commons Flickr photo courtesy of calliope.