Has anyone called you peaches lately? Me neither. This is not a term of endearment to be taken lightly. For centuries across the globe, the peach has been considered a most beloved and sensual fruit.
This week in Colorado, peaches are at their peak. The sweet, sloppy, soft and, oh yes, a tad fuzzy, fruits are brimming from crates throughout the Western Slope.
It is not hard to understand why peaches are so divine. Peaches have long been revered not only for their taste, but also for their supposed role in fertility, longevity and even good fortune. In some cultures, peaches are even considered an aphrodisiac and used in a variety of love potions and charms.
Its kernel is utilized in Chinese medicine to build qi, aid in circulation and is found in tumor formulas. Don't try to make this formula at home without guidance, though, as the peach kernel is also considered a poison due to the high amount of prussic acid found in it. The peach itself is packed with vitamins A and C, as well as potassium. The fruit is said to add color to the complexion and aid in digestion. For those who have wondered what exactly a nectarine is, it's a peach without the fuzz and nothing more. Peach trees will occasionally produce nectarines for no apparent reason.
Prunis Persica can be found in history as far back as 10th century B.C. when it was favored by Chinese emperors. Peaches were brought by Persians from China to the Romans and eventually to America by Spanish explorers in the 16th century. Though American settlers are not known to have commercially cultivated the fruit until the late 1800s, Native Americans enjoyed peaches and are credited with migrating the tree across the country.
The peach and its tree are a popular symbol in China for longevity, fertility and affection. According to the Chinese, the Tree of the Gods bloomed once every 3,000 years and to eat from this peach tree would grant health, vitality and immortality. The fruit is commonly served at birthday celebrations in China as a gift of longevity.
In England, Queen Victoria was said to have had no meal presented to her without a peach wrapped in a fancy cloth napkin. Thomas Jefferson planted peaches in Montecello in 1802. A celebrated French chef by the name of Auguste Escoffier is said to have created a famous dessert in the 1880s called Peach Melba, inspired by a performance by Australian Diva Nelly Melba.
After purchasing a bunch of peaches last week, we have already prepared and enjoyed peaches and cream, peach pancakes, and homemade peach ice cream. Our other favorite peach recipes include cobbler, of course, and peach and almond coffee cake. I always enjoy peaches in a smoothie, and I make a point of chopping up several fruits for the freezer to be enjoyed the rest of the year.
One day last week I took a break from my job digging and planting to eat an afternoon peach. I grabbed the fruit from my truck and continued to work as I held the peach, slowly softening in my hand. I intended to gobble the peach down while scanning for the perfect stepping stone for a path I was constructing. But the moment the sweetness of that fruit reached my tongue everything stopped. I looked around at the clouds just covering the mountain peaks, inhaled a few raindrops and decided to become one with my peach. It was one of those moments when the simplest pleasures in life catch you by surprise.
My friend Angela is from Georgia, The Peach State. But the best peaches she's ever had were grown in Colorado. "I don't even have any real memories of peaches that standout until I moved here," she says. Her favorite way to enjoy peaches is "Over the sink. For some reason I always end up eating one on the road and it just shouldn't be done," she says. "It gets all over the steering wheel and makes a sticky mess."
Here's the naked honest truth about peaches. You can dress them up in fancy outer layers, smother them with cream, roll their tender flesh out into the sun to dry, but they are far best enjoyed au natural. They are also one of the true culinary gems of Colorado. So the next time someone calls you peaches, be sure to take it as a compliment.