Peaches (Prunus persica), like apricots, belong to the genus Prunus of Rosaceate (rose) family having decorative pink blossoms and a juicy, sweet drupe fruit. They are categorized as “stone fruit”, their seed being enclosed in a hard, stone-like endocarp. Peach originated in China, later introduced into Persia. Commercially grown peaches are generally distinguished as clingstone (pit adheres to flesh) or freestone (pit relatively free of the flesh).
China is the leading peach producing country with about 37% share of the total world production followed by the United States and Italy. More than half of this consumption was as fresh; this is likely to increase because of the popularity of fresh-cut fruits in recent years. In Pakistan the environment of N.W.F.P is quite favorable for peach production.
The peach (Prunus persica) is a deciduous tree, native to Northwest China, in the region between the Tarim Basin and the north slopes of the Kunlun Shan mountains, where it was first domesticated and cultivated.It bears an edible juicy fruit also called a peach.
The specific epithet persica refers to its widespread cultivation in Persia, whence it was transplanted to Europe. It belongs to the genus Prunus which includes the cherry and plum, in the family Rosaceae. The peach is classified with the almond in the subgenus Amygdalus, distinguished from the other subgenera by the corrugated seed shell.
Peaches and nectarines are the same species, even though they are regarded commercially as different fruits. In contrast to peaches, whose fruits present the characteristic fuzz on the skin, nectarines are characterized by the absence of fruit-skin trichomes (fuzz-less fruit); genetic studies suggest nectarines are produced due to a recessive allele, whereas peaches are produced from a dominant allele for fuzzy skin. China is the world’s largest producer of peaches.
Pakistan Overview Regarding Peach
Peach is a traditional crop of NWFP province and occupied an area of 5,600 hectares with the production of 51,600 tonnes in 2005-06. It is delicious in taste and attractive in flavor and aroma. There is a wide range of varieties of peaches, which makes its availability possible for long duration. Only in Peshawar region of Pakistan about four dozen varieties of peaches have been tested, and quite few are recommended for general cultivation. The peaches can do well on a variety of soils and its chilling requirements also vary with varieties, so these are also being planted in low land areas of Chakwal. The common rootstocks of peaches in Pakistan are peach seedlings, yellow local peach, almond, apricot and plum, which are specific for specific areas. About 65% of the Peach area in NWFP is covered by 6A, Texas Y-55 (Mid season varieties) and 7, 8, 9 numbers (Late season varieties). Gummosis and peach leaf curl virus are major problems of peaches, which can eliminate the whole plantation of an orchard. Swat is the largest producer of peach.
History of Peach
Although its botanical name Prunus persica refers to Persia (present Iran) from where it came to Europe, genetic studies suggest peaches originated in China, where they have been cultivated since the early days of Chinese culture, circa 2000 BC. Peaches were mentioned in Chinese writings as far back as the 10th century BC and were a favored fruit of kings and emperors. As of late, the history of cultivation of peaches in China has been extensively reviewed citing numerous original manuscripts dating back to 1100 BC.
The peach was brought to India and Western Asia in ancient times. Peach cultivation also went from China, through Persia, and reached Greece by 300 BC. Alexander the Great introduced the fruit into Europe after he conquered the Persians. Peaches were well known to the Romans in first century AD, and were cultivated widely in Emailia-Romagna. Peach trees are portrayed in the wall paintings of the towns destroyed by the Vesuvius eruption of 79 AD, while the oldest known artistic representations of the fruit are in the two fragments of wall paintings, dated back to the 1st century AD, in Herculaneum, now preserved in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples.
Peach was brought to the Americas by Spanish explorers in the 16th century, and eventually made it to England and France in the 17th century, where it was a prized and expensive treat. The horticulturist George Minified supposedly brought the first peaches from England to its North American colonies in the early 17th century, planting them at his Estate of Buckland in Virginia. Although Thomas Jefferson had peach trees at Monticello, United States farmers did not begin commercial production until the 19th century in Maryland, Delaware, Georgia and finally Virginia.
In April 2010, an International Consortium, The International Peach Genome Initiative (IPGI) that includes researchers from USA, Italy, Chile, Spain and France announced they had sequenced the peach tree genome (doubled haploid Lovell). Recently, IPGI published the peach genome sequence and related analyses. The peach genome sequence is composed of 227 millions of nucleotides arranged in 8 pseudo molecules representing the 8 peach chromosomes (2n = 16). In addition, a total of 27,852 protein-coding genes and 28,689 protein-coding transcripts were predicted. Particular emphasis in this study is reserved to the analysis of the genetic diversity in peach germplasm and how it was shaped by human activities such as domestication and breeding. Major historical bottlenecks were individuated; one related to the putative original domestication that is supposed to have taken place in China about 4,000–5,000 years ago, the second is related to the western germplasm and is due to the early dissemination of peach in Europe from China and to the more recent breeding activities in US and Europe. These bottlenecks highlighted the strong reduction of genetic diversity associated with domestication and breeding activities.
Importance of Peach
Peach (prunus persica) is the most important among the stone fruit and is temperate in nature. It is considered the native of China and probably developed in Persia. It is traditional crop of Northern area of Pakistan and occupies the area of 4543 hectares with the production of 48284 tonnes. Quetta, Kalat, Peshawar, Swat valley and certain parts of Kohistan hills are the main growing area of peach. It is delicious in taste and attractive in flavor and aroma. It contains 10-14. Percent sugar, 2 percent protein and rich in ascorbic acid. Vitamins A and B besides iron, phosphorus and calcium.
Peach (Prunus persica L.) is an important economic fruit tree of Balochistan, with an area under cultivation of 60.22 ha and production of 30.31 tons (Wasim, 2011).
Soil and Climate
Peaches can grow on a wide range of soil, depending upon the rootstock used. With light sandy loam soil, they can be budded on peach seedlings. If the soil is heavy and moist, plum rootstock is most suitable. In general, rich well drained, loamy soils with deep subsoil are most suitable. The peach tree is not tolerant of wet conditions. Peaches have widely variable chilling requirements from 200 hours below 5oC for low chilling varieties to more than 1000 hours. Peach orchards are located at from 600-1500 meter elevation. For good flavor and better quality peaches, mild summer temperature of 27-30 oC is required.
Propagation and Root-stock
Peshawar local peach seedlings are the ideal root-stock for peach propagation. In Pakistan at NARC the peach rootstock GF677 have given the encouraging results for yield and quality of fruit. T-budding is successfully practiced on one year old rootstock during summer and cleft grafting is done during late winter. Vegetatively produced plants of commercial varieties are planted during early spring before sprouting. The square system is used with planting distance of 7-8 m depending upon soil type, root-stock and variety.
The orchard is kept covered or clean cultivated depending upon the site and other location conditions. In the Murree hills at lower height where peaches can be cultivated, orchard are kept clean during dry period (April-June), while weeds and grasses are allowed to grow during the rainy season (August-July) to conserve the soil. In Peshawer, where the finest peaches are grown, non-bearing orchards are inter-cropped with vegetables and while bearing orchard are kept clean. Peach orchard must be regularly irrigated to obtain optimum yield, adequate water is particularly necessary during pit hardening and fruit maturing stages. A deficiency in irrigation during the growing season will result in reduced fruit size. Excursive irrigation on the other hand may cause collar rot (phythora spp) disease.
Peaches respond well to N and K under most conditions and have higher requirements of these two elements even than apple. An average sized bearing peach tree is supplied with 60-80 kg F.Y. M annually depending upon the type of soil, yield and vigor of the tree. The manure is applied during the late autumn when the trees are dormant. For chemical fertilizer in Peshawar region the general recommendation is 2-4 kg ammonium sulphate per tree. This fertilizer should be applied into equal doses. First in early spring them after fruit setting in April.
Peach trees are generally trained according to open Centre or modified centre leader system. This gives them strong frame. Annual pruning of bearing tree is essential for peaches as it is related to their typical bearing habit. Peaches bear laterally on previous year growth. Pruning is also necessary to get new shoots on this wood for the following year’s crop.
Peach tree encounter certain production constants which can be easily over come with proper management.
Peach trees are quite sensitive to wet soil due to collar rot. Arrangement for proper drainage of excessive water should be made before plantation.
The tree should be sprayed annually with Dimecron or K aratey or symecidon against peach leaf curle that is mainly due to green aphid.
To protect the fruit from fruitfly diptrex or Basodine should be used before maturation of fruits.
In addition to these pesticides, picking should not be deayed after fruit maturity to avoid the fruit softening and bruising.
Cling and free stone are two important cultivated types of peaches produced worldwide. In Pakistan peach are mainly grown in NWFP, Baluchistan and some low chill and early maturing cultivars in postwar area of Punjab. In Peshawar swat region early grand, Florda King 6-A and 8-A are most popular cultivars. Whereas in Baluchistan Golden early, Shah pasand and Shireen are grown.
Health Benefits of Peaches
The health benefits of peach fruit include relief from hypokalemia, cancer, obesity, cholesterol, and blood stasis and neurodegenerative diseases. It helps in maintaining healthy vision, skin care, nervous system, healthy bones, and teeth. It has anti-aging properties and also helps in detoxification, as well as improving digestion and cellular health. It has a wealth of essential nutrients and antioxidants which are valuable during pregnancy and it helps in strengthening the immune system.
Peaches are juicy and versatile summer fruits that are native to China and South Asia. Its Latin name is Prunus persica, and peaches are a product of a deciduous tree and grow in temperate regions across the world. Peaches belong to the family of Rosaceae, which also include fruits like plums and cherries.
China is the largest producer of peaches and they are auspiciously revered as a Chinese symbol of longevity and immortality. Other top contributors in peach production are Italy, Spain, the United States, and Greece. In fact, Georgia is also known as the “Peach State” for its contribution in producing the highest quality peaches with respect to flavor, texture, and nutritional content. Peaches attained the rank of the state fruit of Georgia in 1995. Peaches are available in many different sizes, and their colors range from yellow to red, depending on the country of origin.
Unlike nectarines, which have a smooth outer surface, peaches have fuzzy, velvety skin. It has a delicate aroma and juicy, yellowish pulp. Peach is a drupe or a stone fruit because its outer fleshy part surrounds a shell, which encloses an edible seed. Based on the grip of the flesh being free or rigid on the seed, peaches are classified in the clinging-stone variety where pulp clings tightly to the pit, a semi-free stone in which the flesh separates out with little effort, and a free-stone variety in which the pulp separates easily from the pit.
Nutritional Value of Peaches
Peaches store a broad range of nutrients that are vital for the healthy functioning of the body. Peaches are a rich provider of vitamin A, beta-carotene, and vitamin C (ascorbic acid). They are also a good source of vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol), vitamin K (phylloquinone), vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B-6, folate, and pantothenic acid. Peaches also offer a rich treasure of minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, manganese, phosphorous, zinc, and copper. Peaches are low in calories, contain no saturated fat or cholesterol, and are a good source of dietary fiber.
Benefits of Peaches Are,
Besides its refreshing taste and aroma, peaches are rich in carotenoids and offer a variety of health benefits.
The peels and the pulp of peaches possess significant antioxidant properties. The presence of chlorogenic acid in peaches also contribute to their protective effects. Antioxidants such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-crytoxanthin help in scavenging the oxygen-derived free radicals and protect the body against the harmful effects of various diseases.
Peaches contain potassium, which is vital for proper nerve signaling and cellular functioning of the body. The potassium content in peaches also helps in metabolic processes, utilizing carbohydrates, maintaining electrolyte balance, and the regulation of muscular tissues. A lack of potassium in the body can lead to hypokalemia which can affect muscular strength and can cause an irregular heartbeat.
Peaches are rich in phenolic and carotenoid compounds, which possess anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties, as well as helping in fighting various types of cancers such as breast cancer, lung cancer, and colon cancer . Studies have supported the fact that chlorogenic acid and neochlorogenic acid present in peaches exert beneficial effects in inhibiting the growth of breast cancer cells without affecting the normal cells, unlike cancer treatment with chemotherapy, which negatively affects healthy cells as well. In addition to this, research has shown that the botanical group Rosaceae, which includes peaches, is rich in beta-carotene, thereby providing protective effects against lung cancer.
Peaches help in maintaining healthy skin owing to the presence of a good amount of vitamin C, which also provides a defense against harmful free radicals and infections. Peaches also exert protective effects on the skin against ultraviolet radiation. Studies have provided evidence that the antioxidants zeaxanthin and lutein have significant anti-inflammatory effects on the skin damage caused by UV-B radiation and they protect the skin from the hyper-proliferation of cells. Flavonoids present in peaches have photo protective effects and help in preventing the skin from UV-induced erythema.
Peaches are widely used in the cosmetic industry for the manufacturing of skin creams and beauty packs. The wealth of flavonoids and essential vitamins and minerals in peaches help in sloughing off dead cells, as well as hydrating and revitalizing the skin. The antioxidants promote faster recovery of skin problems such as blemishes and spots.
Peaches are rich in beta-carotene, which gets converted into vitamin A within the body. Beta-carotene plays an important role in maintaining healthy eyesight and prevents various eye diseases like xerophthalmia and blindness. An investigative research study has shown that the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin present in peaches have positive effects associated with a reduced prevalence of nuclear cataract. As suggested by the studies, lutein and zeaxanthin reside in the macular pigment of the eye and help in protecting the retina from age-related macular degeneration. In addition to this, these components present in peaches guard the retinal tissues from the damage caused by free radicals and the potential injury caused by high-wavelength light.
Peaches are valuable during pregnancy due to the presence of a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals. Vitamin C helps in the healthy growth of the bones, teeth, skin, muscles, and blood vessels of the baby. It also helps in the absorption of iron, which is extremely crucial during pregnancy. The folate in peaches helps in preventing neural tube defects like spina bifida. Potassium content in peaches helps in averting the muscle cramps and general fatigue common during pregnancy. The presence of fiber aids in healthy digestion and reduces conditions like constipation.
Peaches are good for maintaining healthy digestive health due to their alkaline content and fiber. Dietary fiber in peaches absorbs water and helps in preventing stomach disorders like constipation, hemorrhoids, stomach ulcers, gastritis and irregular bowel movements. It also helps in cleansing and eliminating the toxic waste from the intestines and preventing the body from contracting various abdominal disorders, including stomach cancer. Due to its laxative properties, peaches also aid in the dissolution of kidneys and bladder stones.
The presence of magnesium in peaches helps to prevent stress and anxiety in the body and aids in keeping the nervous system calm. A deficiency of magnesium can affect the functioning of the central nervous system, resulting in hyper excited muscles and the increased activity of nerve signals. An investigative research study conducted in this regard has suggested that the intake of magnesium-rich foods along with vitamin B-6 has favorable effects in the treatment of central nervous system hyper-excitability in children. Another study has suggested that magnesium treatment helps in recovering from the symptoms of major depression. The consumption of peaches is also considered beneficial in Ayurvedic therapy for balancing the nervous system.
Peaches contain bio-active components that have shown beneficial effects in combating obesity-related disorders. An investigative research study has suggested that the presence of phenolic compounds in peaches have anti-inflammatory and anti-obesity properties which help in fighting metabolic syndromes that can otherwise lead to serious health concerns.
Peaches are rich in ascorbic acid and zinc, which aid in the normal functioning of the body and help to maintain a healthy immune system. Zinc and vitamin C exert effectual wound healing and antioxidant properties that help in fighting infections and reducing the prevalence and severity of diseases such as the common cold, malaria, pneumonia, and diarrhea. A deficiency of these components can result in oxidative bursts and impaired cellular activity.
Low Cholesterol Levels
Research has shown that phenolic compounds present in the peel and pulp of the clingstone peaches helps in maintaining lower levels of LDL cholesterol and stimulating good HDL cholesterol. These aids in reducing the risk of developing diseases related to the heart and maintain optimal cardiovascular health.
Peaches are a source of zinc, which has anti-aging properties. The consumption of zinc-rich foods such as peaches promotes the production of antibodies and inhibits the cellular damage caused by free radicals. It also interferes with the aging process of male reproductive organs by boosting the levels of the reproductive hormone testosterone in the body.
Healthy Bones and Teeth
Peaches contain phosphorous which, along with calcium, helps in strengthening bones and teeth and helping in the maintenance and repair of bodily tissues. It also aids in the prevention of various bone diseases like decalcification, which can lead to osteoporosis, particularly in post-menopausal women. Consumption of foods rich in phosphorus such as peaches promotes re-mineralization of bones and maintains their rigidity. Along with calcium, the vitamin C content in peaches also plays an important role in the strengthening of jaw bones and gums which helps in keeping the teeth intact.
Peaches are beneficial for cleansing and detoxifying the body and they assist in flushing out harmful toxins from the liver and kidneys. An investigative study has proven that peach extracts possess hepato-protectant elements and are valuable in treating the condition of hepato-toxicity caused as a result of prolonged therapy for various diseases like migraine, tuberculosis, and diabetes. Peaches are widely used in eastern cultures in the manufacturing of herbal detoxification products such as detox teas.
The inner kernel of peaches has been suggested to be beneficial in treating the condition of blood stasis in which the blood becomes inactive. Blood stasis may arise as a consequence of a long-term deficiency of blood, and may result in dryness of blood. This can also happen because of childbirth, abdominal injuries, or surgeries.
Peaches contain iron, which is vital for the formation of hemoglobin in red blood cells. The consumption of foods like peaches is important during all the stages of life, including childhood, adolescence, adulthood and phases such as menstruation and pregnancy.
Studies have proven that peach extracts exert beneficial effects on the central cholinergic system. The cholinergic system is a neurotransmitter system that acts as the backbone of memory and learning functions. Components present in peaches avert the cholinergic system from degenerating and prevents various disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.
Due to the abundance of health promoting compounds, delicious flavor and low calories, peaches are often added as an ingredient in various healthy recipes such as yogurts, shakes, and cakes.
Other Uses of the Peach Tree
Apart from peaches themselves, other parts of the peach tree also provide a range of health benefits.
The leaves of the peach tree are beneficial for the treatment of coughs, bronchitis and abdominal disorders. They possess detoxifying, laxative, and diuretic properties and are also effective in treating abdominal worms and in the healing of wounds. They are also used in the manufacturing of green-colored dyes.
The flowers of the peach tree help in relieving the symptoms of constipation and edema.
Peach seeds are effective in the treatment of menstrual disorders such as dysmenorrheal and amenorrhea and other conditions including blood stasis, elderly asthma, and coughs. They are also beneficial in the treatment of acute appendicitis and dyspnea (shortness of breath) and they promote healthy blood circulation.
The dried bark of the peach tree is beneficial in the treatment of jaundice and dropsy.
Peaches – A Word of Caution
Peaches may cause food allergies due to the presence of certain allergens. Production and storage of dried peaches may involve the usage of sulfite as a preservative, which can lead to allergic reactions including worsened symptoms of asthma, urticaria, bronchial-constrictions, and anaphylaxis.
Excess usage of peach seeds should be avoided as they may have toxic effects due to the presence of cyanide in trace amount. It is always advisable to consult a medical professional in case of any use of medicinal products made from seeds of peaches.
Peaches also help in maintaining healthy levels of blood pressure and boosting cardiac health. Along with the fresh and processed products, canned peaches can also be used to obtain its healthy benefits. The addition of peaches to your diet can enrich you with countless benefits, with the lucrative bonus of having no harmful calories.