Archive for September 4th, 2011

Peach – Prunus persica

Peaches on the tree
Peaches on the tree

…From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat….

Li-Young Lee

This member of the Rose family originates in China, but today is not found growing in the wild. Long before the time of Christ they traveled the Silk Road from China to Persia and onto the Mediterranean. At some point later (what time is specifically unknown) it arrived in Greece.

As far back as 1100 BC Chinese writings note that peaches were in cultivation and use, being the prized fruit of the Emperors and Kings. After it made its way west along the Silk Road, Alexander the Great introduced the peach to Europe. The Spanish then introduced the peach to the Americas in the 16th century. Various Native American tribes were credited with its spread west across this great continent.

The Navajo Indians of the American southwest grew peaches in great orchards, until they were forced off their lands by Kit Carson in 1863-1864 onto the ‘Long Walk.’ Kit Carson’s troops promptly employed the ‘scorched earth’ policy of the government. The idea was to deny them their food source without inflicting actual death in the process, thereby forcing the Navajo to surrender to the military so that they might eat. In Canyon de Chelly alone 3000 peach trees were destroyed!

In herbal medicine the seed kernels, leaves, stems, bark, root, and flowers are used. The seed kernels are used in CTM (Chinese Traditional Medicine) it is used for blood stasis (hemorrage, congestion, thrombosis, and local ischemia), to counter inflammation and to treat allergies. Also used to treat constipation in the elderly; plus coughs, asthma, and menstrual disorders. The leaves are gathered and dried for later use, being used in the treatment of gastritis, whooping cough, and bronchitis. The flowers and bark treat constipation and edema. The root bark is for the treatment of dropsy (edema) and jaundice.

The real treat, from a taste stand point are the fruits! These juicy, fragrant fruits are eaten out of hand or cooked in a large assortment of recipes. From cakes, pies, crumbles, to jellies and jams. They are often canned for winter use. They can be used in appetizers, desserts, even entrees.

In 1995 the “Peach State” was officially claimed by Georgia, their self proclamation made their peaches sound tastier, juicier, prettier, even more nutritious. A little known fact is that many places grow very good quality fruit, and actually greater quantities than Georgia!

A green dye can be made from the leaves. A dark gray to green dye is available from the fruit.