Different Kinds of Peaches



I'm Desmond Layne, Peach Specialist at Clemson University. Welcome to the Clemson Tiger Peach Network.

Welcome back to Everything About Peaches! Our third episode is called "Different Kinds of Peaches." Did you know that peaches originally came from China where they have been cultivated for over 3000 years? Today, in China, there are more than 1000 unique types of peaches! Spanish missionaries actually brought peaches to the "New World" in 1571. We grow from 100-200 different cultivars of peaches in the United States. Today, we will teach you how to identify several different types of peaches.

Because nectarines have a smooth skin like a plum, some people think they are a cross between a peach and a plum. But they are not! They are actually a genetic mutation of a peach. A nectarine is just a peach with smooth skin instead of one with fuzzy skin. When it comes to fuzziness, you may have noticed that peaches that come from the roadside market are fuzzier than the ones that come from the commercial chain store. Fruits for the roadside market are picked directly from the tree into the basket that they are sold in. By contrast, fruits in the commercial chain store are harvested and then mechanically brushed in the packinghouse to remove the fuzz.

Most peaches have a naturally round shape. Some, however, are shaped like a donut. These are flat or saucer-shaped peaches and they are a natural, genetic mutation. Flat peaches are fun and easy to eat. You can hold them in the middle and eat your way around the small round pit in the center.

The color of the flesh inside a peach can be yellow, white or red. In America, most common cultivars have yellow flesh. In Asian countries like China, most of their cultivars have white-flesh. Although some solid red-cultivars do exist, they are fairly uncommon in most markets.

Most peaches at local markets have that characteristic blend of acidic tanginess and sweetness. However, newer low-acid types are becoming popular now in America, especially among Asians and Hispanics. These low-acid types have a very sweet taste -- like honey, but they lack the tanginess of a traditional Southern peach.

Another name for the pit inside a peach is the stone. Peaches where the flesh sticks or attaches to the stone are called clingstone types. The commercial canning industry in California primarily uses non-melting, clingstone peach cultivars. For these, the pits are removed mechanically when canning. On the other hand, peaches that have flesh that does not stick or attach to the stone are called freestone types. For them, the stone is free from the flesh and they are easy to cut in half and separate with a gentle twist. Most people who can peaches at home actually use melting, freestone types. These are much easier to handle and more readily available than clingstone types.

Most peach cultivars available in local markets have what we call 'melting' flesh. That means that when you eat ripe ones, they practically melt in your mouth. However, some cultivars, particularly those used in commercially canning, have what we call 'nonmelting' flesh. The flesh of these is chewy, even rubbery. Some newer flesh cultivars are being developed that are very firm and actually crunchy, like an apple, when fully ripe."

I'll tell you what, being a Peach Specialist is a rough job! Today we talked about all different kinds of peaches. Traditional yellow-fleshed peaches, mmmm, fantastic! White-fleshed peaches, mmmm, exquisite! White nectarines, mmmm, heaven on earth! Yellow sub-acid nectarines, mmmm. And what about these? Donut peaches. Laugh. You need to go out and get you some of these!

For more information on peaches, you can view my Clemson peach website at www.clemson.edu/hort/peach. And to read my regular peach columns for the American Fruit Grower magazine, visit their website at www.growingproduce.com.