Excerpt from the Popular Garden Series magabook Orcharding with permission from its publisher, BowTie magazines, a division of BowTie Inc. Purchase Orcharding here.
Domestic peaches were mentioned in Chinese literature as early as 2000 B.C. Peaches likely reached the Middle East, then the Mediterranean, by way of the Silk Road, a 2,500-mile trade route that stretched from East Asia to ancient Persia (present-day Iran). The Romans called peaches “Persian apples” due to the peach’s origin. Pliny the Elder described several peach varieties that had been grown by 23 A.D. Peach stones, like apple and pear seeds, made their way across Europe along with Caesar’s legions.
Some historians believe peaches came to North America in 1562 with French explorers who established settlements in the area of present-day Mobile, Ala. However, it’s certain peaches also arrived in 1565 with the Spanish colonists who settled in St. Augustine, Fla. These ancient peach cultivars, described as hardier and more productive than today’s peaches, quickly naturalized into groves so widespread that later colonists believed the peach was a native American fruit.