Peach trees provide beauty and bounty year round.
After the winter rains the stark branches dress up with fluffy blossoms and bees buzzing about. Then the leaves emerge as tiny green balls where the pollinated flowers once were. Sunlight highlights them as they grow.
The texture on the baby peaches feels like a velvety fleece. As they grow larger the surface becomes less fuzzy, with growing areas of pink, red and yellow.
By the time they are ripe, the leaves are larger and the fruits would be hidden in the branches if it weren’t for their brilliant red-orange color.
Last week I taste-tested a variety of peaches at the farmers market and savored that juicy flavor I wait all year for. The small ripe ones were just as flavorful as the giant ones. The big difference was between the white flesh peaches and the yellow ones. I found the white ones sweet like sugar with a hint of almond flavor. The yellow ones have a sweet and sour taste and are my favorites for peach pie.
Peaches have been cultivated for more than ten centuries, beginning with the Chinese. Our local farmers and some local fruit lovers have placed this hearty tree in their orchard or yard so they can proudly say, “Made in Burlingame” when they share their bounty with friends and neighbors.
They are bred for flavor variations, firmness and texture. Certain varieties have flesh that sticks to the pit or stone. Others are categorized as freestone peaches, in which the flesh does not cling to the pit.
The beloved peach travelled with traders to India and Persia. From there, Alexander the Great brought it home to Europe before the Spaniards brought to the the United States. But we need to credit our Native Americans for taking the seeds on their migratory journeys and planting them along the way, much like Johnny Appleseed did for the apple trees.
Peach trees, blossoms and fruits are equated with courage, longevity, vitality and happiness in legends, art work, and poetry worldwide.
Do you have a peach tree in your yard? If so, you are contributing to the statistic that says California grows 65 percent of the peaches in the United States. And you probably have a story or two tell about your tree.