The plant of Peaches
The botanical classification of the peach has been quite complex: in the course of time it was included under different genus and species. In 1927, Bayle finally grouped all the Rosacee that produce drupe under the Prunus genus and the peach was also included in this group.
Thus, the peach is included in the Rosaceae family, in the Amygdalus subfamily, section of the Prunoideae, genus Prunus, species vulgaris.
The tree of peaches is basitonial, of medium hight: it can reach up to 8m, with average height of about 4-6m. The height of the tree is influenced, as well as by the vigour, above all by the lenght of the internodes.
The trunk of the peach tree is straight and smooth, with a reddish-grey bark that later becomes darker. Also branches that are reddish-green in the first year, later turn grey. The trunk usually branches in 4-5 main branches, at a different height between 50 and 100 cm. The root system is branched and very expanded: roots are usually orange, lighter while young, turning dark orange when older with large lenticels.
The leaves of the peach tree are narrow and lanceolate, while flowers, very beautiful and praised by singers and poets, are white and pink, and are arranged to cover branches almost completely.
The cultivation of peaches begins after one year from the graft, because the flower and the fruit develop only on one-year-old wood: the plant of peaches breeds also through the seed, but in this case the fruit quality is uncertain. The peach tree likes a lot of light or even full sun, and a soft soil, loose and permeable. In Winter, the peach tree withstands very low temperatures, but winter frosts often damage completely the growth of the plant, because of the very early blooming. Compared to other fruit trees and other fruit and vegetable products in general, the peach tree needs more mineral salts, to improve the yield and the size of the fresh fruits.
The peach is a self—pollinating tree with a high fruit set, to which follows a short but huge blooming. Flowers appear in Spring even earlier than leaves, and in some varieties may be double. The petals of the peach flowers are five, the calyx is gamosepalous, with five sepals; there are many stamens, as many as 20-30.
The peach is also a self-incompatible species: it means that of the two ovules, usually only one is fertilized; the peach stone, therefore, contains only one seed (or almond), deeply lined, which is bitter because of the high content of amygdalin, a glycoside, typical of some drupaceae.
The fruits, called peaches, are fleshy drupes, round, with a longitudinal ridge, covered with a velvet (peaches) or smooth (nectarines) skin of various colours. The flesh of peaches is juicy, sugary, more or less acid, white, yellow or greenish; the peach, in fact, has a typical fleshy and juicy texture, due to the high content of water and to the presence of pectin.
One of the most frequent peach diseases is caused by Taphrina deformans, a fungus that causes peach leaf curl and the withering of leaves. Instead, the pests that the peach withstands less, are of course insects, among which the most common are aphids (brown, black, green, sandy), the white scale insect, some moths, the Eastern moth, the Goat moth and one kind of fly, the Mediterranean fruit fly.
Finally, the varieties of peaches differ for some characteristics of the fruits, such as earliness and the flesh colour.
Usually, yellow peaches are freestone peaches, have a velvet skin, a juicy flesh and a nice flavour.
White peaches instead are clingstone, have a white and thready flesh.
Then there are nectarines , that are freestone, have a yellow or white flesh and a reddish smooth skin.
Quite the same popularity has the Italian variety called "percoca" peach: it is a peach suitable above all to be processed, the variety of peach “merendella”, which is freestone and has a smooth white-green skin and finally the Saturnine peach or "tabacchiera", flat and with an intense flavour.