Having traveled through the Peach State this week, it seems appropriate to consider the nature of that fruit.  Native to China, peaches were later introduced to Persia and were cultivated in the Mediterranean region during the Roman Empire.  Spanish explorers brought peaches to the Americas in the 1500s and the fruit was later taken back to northern Europe on English and French ships.

Since an annual period of cold weather is required for flowering, peach trees are best cultivated in the Temperate Zone.  Members of the rose family and the genus Prunus (which also includes other "drupes" such as plums, cherries, apricots and almonds), peaches and nectarines are variants of the same species; the fuzzy skin of peaches is a dominant genetic trait while the smooth skin of nectarines is a recessive trait.  Both peaches and nectarines may be of the clingstone or freestone variety, depending on whether the pulp clings to the seed husk or not; a large number of cultivars exist for both fruits, characterized by differences in size, color and taste.

Since peach trees flower in early spring (generally in March in the Temperate Zone of the U.S.), their blossoms often succumb to frost or a hard freeze in more northern portions or higher elevation regions of their cultivation range.  Indeed, the peach tree on our Littleton, Colorado, farm has only managed to produce fruit a few times in the past 25 years!