I have been thinking about all things peach, following the arrival of peaches in the markets and my first picture book, Peach Girl, in the bookstores.
Here Comes the Fuzz
When I began mining the Internet, I was surprised and amused to see that “peach fuzz” seems to be more about people than fruit. Eventually, I found New Insights into the Properties of Pubescent Surfaces: Peach Fruit as a Model, which is not about a teenager with acne, but about the function of fuzz on peaches. I didn't know pubescent also means, “covered in fine, soft, short hairs.” An even fancier phrase for peach fuzz is trichome indumentum. Trichome refers to the little hairs that grow from the skin of plants and indumentum refers to a general covering of hairs on plants or animals.
In her paper on plant physiology, Dr Fernandez and her colleagues scrutinized the surface of the peach in great detail. After poking, prodding and even shaving it, they found that the waxiness of the peach skin combined with the hairs covering the cuticle, reduced water loss and also affected the charge of the surface, so it was harder for substances to wet the peach skin. This could be a helpful evolutionary trait, under various physical and biological situations.
Once Upon a Time
Peaches seem to have their origins, once upon a time, in southern China. Documents from the tenth century mention how emperors prized this fruit above all others. Fuzziness may have helped reduce water loss under semi-arid conditions, though peaches do need a chilly winter to ripen.
Nectarines are a cultivar of the peach plant and do not have the fuzz of a peach. They also vary in taste and size. Both peaches and nectarines come in many varieties. Mel Brooks’ character, the 2000 Year Old Man, was big on nectarines. But I don't know if nectarines lose more water than peaches and are, therefore, any less juicy. I think it would be hard to find specimens of each that are comparably ripe, even though that might be better than trying to compare apples to oranges.
Given the Brush Off
Lately, peach producers have been brushing off the fuzz for their picky customers and this could be affecting the durability of peaches.
By the Skin of My Peach
If you prefer the peach without its skin, blanching the peach in hot water makes it easier to remove the skin. Enjoy!