Peach with its botanical name Prunus persica is a fruit tree of Rosaceae family which is grown in warmer and temperate regions. It belongs to the member of stone fruit family which also includes plums, apricots, cherries and nectarines having one large seed at the center of the fruit. The fruits are small to medium sized.
The flesh of peach varies in color from orange or white to yellow. The glossy leaves are lance shaped and long pointed. The tree prefers well-drained and sandy or gravelly loam soils. The trees require full exposure of sun for maximum growth. It thrives on nitrogen so they require lots of fertilizer.
History of peaches
Genetic studies show that peaches got originated in China which was also cultivated from early days of Chinese culture. Recently, it was considered that domestication of peach started in early 6000 BC in Zhejiang Province of China. Before 10th century BC, peaches were mentioned in Chinese writings and were a popular fruit of emperors and kings. The domestication of peach started in 4700-4400 BC in Japan during Jomon period. The domesticated peach was brought from China to Japan. In India, the peach was first appeared during Harappan period.
In ancient times, it was found in Western Asia elsewhere. The cultivation of peach was introduced to Persia from China and reached by 300 BC in Greece. The fruit was introduced by Alexander the Great to Europe after he conquered Persians. In 1st century AD, peaches were well known to Romans and were widely cultivated in Emilia-Romagna. In 16th century, peach was brought by Spanish explorers to America and then in England and France. In early 17th century, peaches were brought by horticulturist George Minifie to North American colonies from England. In 19th century, the commercial production of peaches was started in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Georgia.
Peach is a small deciduous tree which grows from 10 to 30 feet in height with ½ feet across and ascending to spreading branches. It has gray bark with horizontal lenticels which becomes scaly and rough as it ages. The young branches are smooth and burgundy in color and larger branches are gray in color. New shoots are glabrous, terete and light green which grows from the tips of branches. The young branches bear alternate leaves which grow in dense clusters. Leaves are elliptic to lanceolate measuring 2 to 6 inches long.
The pink flowers measures about 1 to 1 ½ inches across having 15 to 30 stamens. Flowers are converted into globoid-ovoid fruits which are yellow to deep orange in color and measures about 3 inches long and across. The fruit contains white or yellow flesh and ovoid and slightly flattened drupes. The plant has woody, shallow and spreading root system. The habitat for peach plants includes roadsides, homestead sites and other disturbed habitats. The tree favors well drained moist conditions, full sun and fertile loamy soil. It is able to tolerate drier conditions, partial shade and less fertile soil but produces smaller and few fruits.
Each leaf is elliptic-lanceolate to elliptic-oblanceolate and is 2-6 inches long and ½-1½ inches across with serrated margins. The upper surface of leaf is glabrous and is medium-dark green and lower surface of leaf is glabrous and is pale to medium green. The glabrous petioles are light green and are ½-¾ inches long.
Young branches produce sessile flowers before the development of vernal flowers. They occur individually. Flowers measures 1 to 1 ½ inches across and have five pink petals with 15 to 30 stamens, a burgundy calyx having five rounded lobes and a pistil with a single style. Petals are in the shape of oval to orbicular with clawed bases. The filaments of stamens are glabrous and light pink and long slender style is light green. The blooming starts during mid-spring. Bees and other insects cross pollinate the flowers.
Flowers are then replaced by fruits which become mature during summer or fall. At first, the fruits are ovoid in shape, green, small and fuzzy from dense hairs. When it becomes mature, the fruits are globoid or globoid to ovoid, yellow to deep orange to red measuring 3 inches across and 3 inches long and still fuzzy from dense hairs. In comparison to the cultivated trees, the fruits of wild Peach trees are small in size. The white or yellow flesh has sweet to tart flavor. Drupes are ovoid, slightly flattened and ½ to ¾ inches long. The surface of drupes is red to reddish brown and is deeply pitted.
Health Benefits of Peach
Peaches are juicy fruits which grow in the temperate regions of the world. It is a stone fruit which have juicy, yellowish pulp and delicate aroma. This small fruit is packed with variety of nutrients which is essential for bodily functions. Peach has high content of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and beta carotene.
Moreover, it also possesses Vitamin K, Vitamin E, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B3, pantothenic acid and folate. It also offers minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron, zinc, phosphorus and copper. This fruit does not contain cholesterol, saturated fat, low in calories and a great source of dietary fiber.
The fruit provides relief from cancer, hypokalemia, cholesterol, obesity, neurodegenerative diseases, and cholesterol and blood stasis. It assists to maintain skin care, healthy vision, healthy bones, teeth and nervous system. It possesses anti-aging activity and assists in detoxification and promotes cellular health and digestive health.
- Prevent breast cancer
The peach extract assist in inhibition of breast cancer in mice. The combination of phenolic compounds found in peach extracts is responsible for metastasis inhibition. The study was conducted by implanting the cancer cells under the skin of mice. The mice were fed on peach extract which showed inhibition of metastasis. The study determined an underlying mechanism due to which polyphenols inhibits metastasis. Peach contains chemical compounds which help to eliminate cancer cells without affecting normal cells. This combination of compounds helps in inhibition of metastasis. T
he consumption of two or three peaches a day would help to obtain identical effects in humans as well. It has high content of carotenoid and phenolic compounds that possess anti-cancer and anti-tumor activity and assist to prevent lung cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer.
- Eliminate free radicals
The pulp and peels of peaches has antioxidant activity. It has chlorogenic acid that provides protective activity. Beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin and lutein are antioxidants that assist in eliminating oxygen derived free radicals and also protect body from harmful effects of diseases. The diet rich in antioxidants defense against the damage caused by free radicals. Peach has high content of caffeic acid which prevents body from harmful carcinogenic mold aflatoxin that is also found in corn, peanuts and peanut butter. Caffeic acids wipe out the production of aflatoxin lowering it by 95 percent.
- Heart health
Potassium in peaches is essential for proper signaling of nerves and cellular functioning of the body. It assists in metabolic processes, maintaining electrolyte balance, utilizing carbohydrates and muscular tissues regulation. Inadequate potassium in the body results hypokalemia that affects muscular strength and causes irregular heartbeat. Vitamin C, potassium, fiber and choline supports healthy heart. The high intake of potassium with low intake of sodium lowers the chances of cardiovascular problems. In a study, the people who took 4069 mg of potassium in a day had 49% low chances of death from heart disease in comparison to those with less potassium.
- Healthy skin
Peaches are a great source of Vitamin C that assist to maintain skin health and prevents harmful free radicals as well as infections. It provides protective effect against ultraviolet radiation. The study shows that antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin provide anti-inflammatory activities on skin damage caused due to UV-B radiation and also prevents hyperproliferation of cells.
Peaches have flavonoids which have photoprotective effects and prevent skin from UV-induced erythema. It is also used in manufacturing beauty packs and skin creams. It possesses essential vitamins and minerals that helps to eliminate dead cells and hydrates as well as revitalizes skin. Antioxidants speed up the recovery process of spots and blemishes. Vitamin C can lower wrinkles, fight skin damage and also improves overall texture of the skin. It is essential for forming collagen which is the support system of skin.
- Healthy eyesight
Beta-carotene found in peaches are converted into Vitamin A in the body. It is essential to maintain healthy eyesight and prevents eye problems such as blindness and xerophthalmia. Research concluded that carotenoids found in peaches such as zeaxanthin and lutein has positive effects related with lowering nuclear cataract. Zeaxanthin and lutein settles in a macular pigment of eye and protects retina from macular degeneration. Moreover, it protects retinal tissues from the damage caused by free radicals. The high intake of vegetable and fruits is related with healthy hair and complexion, lower weight, increased energy and low risk of mortality.
- Safe during pregnancy
Peaches are loaded with essential minerals and vitamins. Vitamin C assists in growth of bones, skin, teeth, muscles and blood vessels of the baby. It supports in iron absorption which is very essential during pregnancy. Folate prevents the chances of neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Potassium ward off general fatigue and muscle cramps during pregnancy. Fiber supports in healthy digestion and lower condition such as constipation.
- Supports digestion
Peaches help to maintain digestive health due to the presence of fiber and alkaline content. The dietary fiber absorbs water and prevents stomach ailments such as hemorrhoids, constipation, gastritis, stomach ulcers and irregular bowel movements. It helps to eradicate toxic waste from intestines and prevent body from abdominal disorders such as stomach cancer. The laxative properties found in peaches help in dissolution of kidney and bladder stones.
The extract of Peach flowers is helpful for motility disorders due to contraction of muscles that mix and eliminates materials within gastrointestinal tract. Motility disorders include constipation, gastroesophageal reflux disease and diarrhea. The extract of flower is prokinetic agent that promotes strength of contractions in GI tract to maintain proper rhythm.
- Calms nervous system
Magnesium helps in prevention of anxiety and stress in the body and also calms down the nervous system. Lack of magnesium affects the functions of central nervous system which leads to increase in activity of nerve signals and hyper excited muscles. The study shows that the foods rich in magnesium with Vitamin B6 are helpful for treating central nervous system hyper-excitability. Other study shows that magnesium helps to recover the depression symptoms.
- Strengthen immunity
Peaches have high content of zinc and ascorbic acid that aids normal functions of the body and assist in maintaining healthy immune system. Vitamin C and zinc has antioxidant and wound healing properties that counteracts with infections and lowers the severity of diseases such as malaria, common cold, diarrhea and pneumonia. Its deficiency leads to impaired cellular activity and oxidative bursts.
- Strengthen bones and teeth
Phosphorus with calcium helps to strengthen teeth and bones and also helps to repair tissues of the body. It prevents bone ailments such as decalcification that could result in osteoporosis in post-menopausal women. The foods with high content of phosphorus promote re-mineralization of bones and also maintain its rigidity. Vitamin C with calcium helps to strengthen gums and jaw bones which keeps the teeth intact.