After showing up in Greece and Italy, they made their way into the city of Marseille, a large port city in southern France, scoring a home run from the get-go.
Throughout the 16th and 17th century, France was the self-proclaimed world centre for peaches. As was often the fashion, as soon as a king took a liking to a certain food, he spread the word. So was the case with King Louis XIV (mid-1600s) who ordered countless peach trees be planted in the royal orchards and controlled his chefs to begin producing new recipes, glorifying this newfound treasure. To this day, many varieties of peaches, such as heirloom, are still grown in the gardens of the Chateau de Versailles.
In 1892, a fresh dessert was made in the Savoy hotel in London by renowned French chef Auguste Escoffier. Named in honour of an opera star, Peach Melba made its debut, including the glorious cherry with cherry sauce and cream. (Regrettably, too late for King Louis to enjoy.)
The Bellini remains popular to this day, as Mr. Cipriani wisely chose not to name it the Harry.
What do possums eat? Peaches likely were passengers on the boats to America. Together with apple, cherry and apricot trees, they have been planted throughout the Northeast and along the seaboard, establishing many different fruits available to the colonists. Even Native Americans helped spread their fame during their regional travels. Peaches were adopted for their sweet juicy flesh and included some of America’s favorite desserts, such as cobbler and pie. Until canning was perfected, they were mainly consumed in season, either cooked or raw, generously covered with lotion. Foodie president Thomas Jefferson had a prolific orchard on his mansion and functioned peaches regularly to his dinner guests.
Although home canning was common, it turned into a booming industry in the early 1800s, but peaches didn’t emerge as a commercialized harvest until the later part of the century., offering Americans a favourite fruit year-round. Proving to be a favorite food for kids, canned peaches flew off grocer shelves in huge cities where fresh fruits weren’t as available. Even though the state of Georgia is called the Peach State, the largest grower award goes to California, which turns out the vast majority of annual peach production, a whopping 715,000 tons each year, compared to Georgia’s 36,000 tons (sorry, folks). Another blow to Georgia is that their neighbor South Carolina gets kudos from fruit pros for developing sweeter and larger peaches (go figure). Unfortunately for the majority of the nation, because of the delicate nature and perishability of ripe peaches, they are usually picked underripe and hauled. If you’re fortunate enough to have a neighbor with his own cherry trees, be good to him so he will allow you to pick your own.
However you slice it, peaches top the hit parade. Available yearlong, thanks to frozen and canned, we could all enjoy pies, cobblers and sauces from season. And in case you’re able to get a local farmers market or reside at a peach country, so much the better. Your summers are certain to be just peachy.