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The amazing, delicious peach

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It comes from the far northwestern Chinese autonomous region of Xinjiang, between the Kunlun mountains along the Tibetan plateau, and the Tarim Basin. There it has been cultivated for over 4,000 years. It made its way to Persia along the fabled Silk Road on the backs of humpy camels, where it became widely cultivated and vastly popular. 

It became a favorite delicacy of emperors and kings, its praises were sung in the Arabian Nights, and it is found on every dignified platter of fruit in the Middle East. Its scientific name, Prunus persica suggests that it came from Persia, though it originated in China. Today it is canned by the thousands of tons in California. It is known as the “fruit of calmness” in Hungary, and its tree has been referred to as the tree of life. We all know it as the peach.

In a world of super fruits, exotic Amazonian berries, rare arctic edible treasures and furry pod fruits from the equator, the peach may seem like just another piece of fruit to munch on. And it is that too, having become a favored food in Europe and the US. We can thank Christopher Columbus for bringing peaches to the North American continent on his second and third voyages. In season during the summer months, the various varieties of peaches make their way to farm stands, grocery stores and markets all over the world, where for a brief period of time, the succulent peach reigns seasonally supreme.

When a peach is truly ripe, it will run all over you when you eat it. That is part of the fun and sensory experience of this fruit. Peaches get you involved. You don’t eat fresh peaches in a stodgy way. Peaches invite you to bust loose a bit. Bite into one, and the juice runs down your face, and what juice it is! Imbued with more than 80 compounds that comprise its memorable and complex aroma, the peach hits you with a good dose of fruity perfume. And once the juicy flesh starts to break up in your mouth, all heaven breaks loose. Really good peaches, especially those grown organically, are stunningly sweet and flavorful. Heavenly is not too strong a word for the flavor experience.

Super fruit? Sure, why not. Peaches are loaded with potent antioxidants, just like the highly touted berries and other stars of the fruit world. Chlorogenic acids, catechins, anthocyanins and other brawny, cell-saving antioxidants imbue this fruit with protective, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, heart-healthy flavor. And the delicious and slippery fiber of the fruit makes a good contribution to a healthy digestive tract and thorough intestinal elimination. What’s not super about that?

With over 700 varieties to choose from, you’re not likely to run out of peach types to try. Even nectarines, which are often presumed to be unique fruits, are actually peaches, just with smooth skin and a different type of flesh. From flat peaches that are slightly sour to fat peaches that are stunningly sweet, peaches vary greatly.

Peaches are rich in vitamin A and C, both of which are good for healthy skin. This may account for the widespread use of peach in cosmetic products. The average peach contains a measly 35 – 50 calories, and zero fat. Translation- you can fill yourself up with peaches and not put on pounds.

Many people consider fruits to be the pinnacle of nature’s edible bounty. Fruits delight us in countless ways, and most regions of the world have contributed their own special fruits to the global mix. Peaches, from far-off northwestern China, have become beloved for good reasons. They are delicious, fragrant, very good for you, nutritious, protective and health-imbuing in a variety of ways. You can eat them with impunity and only contribute to your health. And they are fun to eat. In short, there’s a lot to love about peaches.

Chris Kilham is a medicine hunter who researches natural remedies all over the world, from the Amazon to Siberia. He teaches ethnobotany at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is Explorer In Residence. Chris advises herbal, cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies and is a regular guest on radio and TV programs worldwide. His field research is largely sponsored by Naturex of Avignon, France. Read more at MedicineHunter.com.