Peach: Varieties

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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There are two categories of peach, clingstone and freestone, distinguished by the ease with which the flesh comes away from the stone. Each includes fruits with both yellow and white flesh; and varieties of each were known from early times. Gerard (1633) described four varieties (white, red, yellow, and d’avant) and added: ‘I have them all in my garden, with many other sorts.’ Parkinson (1629) listed 21 varieties, and Rea (1676) 35. Many had names which indicated a French origin. Perhaps the most famous peaches of France have been those of Montreuil near Paris; but this was not an instance of a special variety, it was rather a special method of cultivation, using espaliers of a different design, to produce fruits of exceptional quality, packed by hand and internationally famed. The varieties used included l’Admirable tardive (=Téton de Vénus) and Gross Noire de Montreuil. Émile Zola admired their fine clear skin, like that of girls of the north of France, he thought, in contrast to the peaches from the Midi which were yellow and sunburned like the girls of that region. In 1993, however, there was only one lady orchardist selling genuine Montreuil peaches in the town.