Peach, a juicy, reddish-yellow fruit with a tangy sweet flavor. It grows on a tree, 10 to 20 feet (3 to 6 m) tall, that has shiny green, lance-shaped leaves. Showy pink blossoms appear on the bare branches in early spring. The peach tree is native to southeastern Asia. It was first cultivated in China more than 4,000 years ago, and was introduced into Persia and southern Europe before the Christian Era. Spanish colonists brought the peach tree to America in the early 16th century. The tree is grown today in most temperate-zone countries, chiefly for the fruit but also as an ornamental. (When grown as an ornamental, the tree is called flowering peach.)

Italy and the United States together usually produce one-third to two-fifths of the world's peach crop. China, Greece, and Spain account for about one-fourth of the world total. In the United States, California is by far the largest producer. Other major peach-producing states are Georgia, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Washington, Michigan, and New Jersey.

PeachesPeaches are juicy, red-yellow fruits with a tangy sweet flavor.

Peaches are grown near large bodies of water (which have a moderating influence on climate) and in sheltered valleys. Such locations best protect the trees from sudden severe winter cold spells that damage the trunks and branches, and late frosts that kill or injure blossoms or fruit buds.

Peach orchards are started from year-old seedlings planted 18 to 24 feet (5 to 7 m) apart. The trees are fully bearing in the fourth year, and live about 20 years. Unlike most fruit trees, peach trees do well in sandy soil. The trees are kept vigorous, and the fruit is improved in size, by a carefully scheduled yearly program of pruning and thinning. An average tree bears 5 to 10 bushels (240 to 480 pounds, or 110 to 220 kg) of peaches about 3 inches (7.5 cm) in diameter.

Peaches are highly perishable. For the fresh market they are picked just before they are fully ripe; packed in bushel or half-bushel baskets, or in flat boxes; and shipped in refrigerated railway cars or trucks. Peaches for canning are tree-ripened fruits, delivered to the canneries in bulk loads on the day they are picked.

Varieties of Peaches

Peaches are broadly classified as clingstone or freestone types. In the clingstone type, the stone, or pit (the hard, furrowed seed, at the center of the fruit), is firmly attached to the fleshy part of the peach. In a freestone peach, the pit is easily separated from the flesh. Clingstone peaches are preferred for canning; freestone, for the fresh market.

Common varieties of clingstone peaches include the Arp, Carman, Marigold, and Mayflower. Freestone varieties include the Elbertathe most widely grown peach in the United Statesand the Belle of Georgia, Champion, Early Crawford, Golden Jubilee, Halehaven, J. H. Hale, Mikado, Oriole, South Haven, and Southland. Peach varieties differ in flavor, color of flesh (white to yellow), and keeping quality. Each variety is propagated by budding on special, hardy stock.

The nectarine, which may be of the clingstone or freestone type, is the only smooth-skinned peach. All other varieties are covered with tiny hairs, called the velvet, or fuzz.

Diseases and Insect Pests

The peach tree and its fruit are subject to many diseases. Brown rot, peach scab, leaf curl, peach blight, and mildew are caused by fungi; bacterial spot, by a bacterium. Virus diseases include mosaic, yellows, rosette, and phony peach. The trees also are attacked by insects, such as the plum curculio, peach tree borer, oriental fruit moth, and scale insects; and by the red spider, a mite. Peach growers plant resistant varieties, and use chemical sprays, to combat these pests and diseases.

The peach tree is Amygdalus, or Prunuspersica of the rose family, Rosaceae. It is closely related to the almond.