The history of… peaches, a sweet treat once fed to pigs

The history of… peaches, a sweet treat once fed to pigs

Nov 04, 2021Jonathan Englert

Did you know peaches were distilled into brandy and used as food for farmer’s hogs before they became a staple worldwide?

Not the origin you may have expected when thinking about sweet, juicy peaches. But, peaches were not always sweet; and since their cultivation, thousands of varieties have been developed. Imagine a small, sour, and fuzzy peach. Well, that’s a wild peach! 

The fruit originated in China around 1000 BCE, and spread throughout Asia and the Mediterranean. By 1600, peach pits were brought to Europe and the Americas. 

Their botanical name, Prunus Persica, comes from their travels along the silk road to Persia. In fact, the Romans often called it the Persian Apple. Today, China remains the largest producer of peaches in the world, but Italy, Spain, and the United States are also major producers.

The peach has significance in many cultures. In China, a peach tree represents life and is a symbol of immortality and unity. In Korea, peaches represent longevity, riches, and happiness. In Europe, during the impressionist movement, artists Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, and Vincent Van Gogh would use peaches as the main subject of their still life paintings.

Peaches are so loved that throughout history festivals would be held in celebration of the fruit. In the 1920s, the US state of Georgia would host peach festivals; and in China, they still hold a Feast of Peaches on the third day of the third moon month. 

Next time peaches are in season, try making a Peach Melba - a dessert made up of poached peaches, vanilla ice cream, and raspberry purée - named after the great Aussie operatic soprano, Nellie Melba.

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