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An American favorite and the fruit of a longstanding Californian tradition, the rosy sun-blushed Cling Peach blossomed from both historic and international roots. This section provides a detailed look at the extensive travels of the California Cling Peach.
The origin of the peach dates to tenth century BC China where the first wild peach trees produced small, sour fruits. The ancient Chinese quickly learned to cultivate the trees, resulting in larger, more flavorful fruit. Mentioned in ancient Chinese writings, the peach was a valuable trade commodity and was also believed to confer immortality.
Carried west by caravans, the news of sweet, velvety peaches slowly spread along trade routes throughout Asia. In Persia, the suitable climate provided exceptional growing conditions for peaches, hence the name (prunus persica). By 140 BC, peaches had reached the Mediterranean region, specifically Rome and Greece. In 65 BC, the Roman emperor Pompey introduced peach trees to Roman orchards, and peach production rapidly increased throughout western Europe. When peaches finally reached northern Europe, they were enjoyed as a rare delicacy as the climate did not encourage peach farming.
Peaches did not reach the shores of the Americas until more than 1,500 years later. In 1513, the Spanish introduced peaches to Florida where they quickly began to cultivate the extremely popular fruit. Peach farming slowly spread throughout the 13 colonies and then westward towards the Mississippi River. In 1524, the Spanish introduced peaches to Central America independently. Beginning in Guatemala, peach farming spread north through Mexico and eventually, into California.
Beginning in the late 1700s, Spanish missionaries from Mexico began to build the California Missions as they traveled north along the coast. In addition to Christianity, they also brought peaches, which they planted in their gardens. However, mission cultivation did not supply the general population. Most peaches were shipped into California from the eastern states.
In 1849, the gold rush initiated a population boom within California. As a result, eastern supply could no longer satisfy demand for peaches. California peach production began. Numerous varieties flourished in California’s Mediterranean-like climate and an important industry was born.
There are two types of peaches, Freestone and Clingstone, both descendents of the first wild peaches from China. The Freestone Peach, usually enjoyed fresh, is distinguished by the ease with which the fruit separates from the pit. Conversely, the fruit of the Clingstone Peach “clings” to the pit. Clingstone Peaches are therefore processed (the pit is removed) and preserved to ensure yearlong availability, convenience and nutrition.
Both freestones and clingstones are produced in California, but Cling Peach farming has been exceptionally successful. In fact, California produced nearly 100% of the 2001 US Cling Peach crop.