Valley Bounty: Peaches
Though it is actually native to northwest China, where evidence suggests it has been cultivated from as early as 6,000 B.C.E., the peach tree’s Latin name Prunus persica, or “Persian plum”, refers to both its close botanical relation to the plum and the mistaken early European belief that they had originated in the region of modern-day Iran. Other members of the Prunus genus include plums, apricots, and, less obviously, almonds—apparently, the kernel inside a peach pit tastes quite a bit like bitter almond and is sometimes used as a lower-cost alternative to actual almonds in baked goods and marzipan (I wouldn’t start cracking open peach pits for a snack though, as they contain small amounts of a cyanide compound not present in the flesh of the fruit). Nectarines, though often marketed as a separate fruit, are considered the same species as peaches, and it is believed to be a mutation in a single gene that causes certain varieties to lack the peach’s characteristic fuzz.
Fresh local peaches are available at farmer’ markets and farm stands for a very limited window in the second half of the summer. When I buy local peaches, I like to half them, pit them, and throw them on the grill briefly before serving them with vanilla ice cream (if I manage not to eat them all before the grill gets warm).
Valley Bounty is written by Brian Snell of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture)