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Blood peaches are distinguished by their dark red, velvety skin and large size. The heirloom peaches can grow up to 15 centimeters in diameter, though many become too ripe before getting that large. Indian Blood peaches are quite fragile once ripe, and growers have a short window in which to harvest the fruit. The fuzzy skin coats the fruit and gives it a gray sheen. The tender, yet firm flesh is crimson just below the skin and yellow with streaks of color reaching towards the stone. Depending on the environment, amount of rain during the season and time of harvest, the color of the flesh may be entirely stained purple, or merely streaked with red. The flesh will cling to large central seed, and is often stained the same deep red as the skin. Indian Blood peaches are sweet when fully ripe, and can be more acidic and tart when under-ripe. They are said to have a taste unlike most peach varieties.
Blood peaches are available in the late summer months.
Blood peaches, also known as Cherokee peaches and Blood Cling peaches, are an heirloom cultivar of Prunus persica. The very productive, late season peaches are the clingstone variety meaning its flesh adheres to the pit at the fruit’s center. There are few other known varieties with the same characteristics as the Indian Blood peach: heirloom varieties from France and China. They share the red-flesh trait, yet each variety ripens at different times and varies in size in their preferred climates. Blood peach trees are self-fertile, meaning that they do not need another tree to pollinate the flowers in order for them to fruit.
Blood peaches are a good source of potassium, and vitamins A and C. It also contains dietary fiber iron, and calcium. Anthocyanins present in the skin and flesh of the Blood peach are rich in antioxidants, which help rid the body of damaging free-radicals.
Blood peaches are considered a superior canning and baking peach. They can also be used in fresh fruit salads, savory salads and appetizers, or pureed for preserves, jams or sauces. The red-fleshed peach pairs well with other stone fruits, honey, custard, lavender, citrus, cardamom, basil, arugula, nuts, and soft cheeses. Blood peaches are highly perishable and can be stored in the refrigerated for only a few days.
The origin of Indian Blood peaches in America is a bit muddled. One theory has the peaches arriving with the Spaniards in the 16th century, while another posits the idea that they might have come over the Bering Strait with the original settlers of the Americas. The latter arguing that the peach was here before the Spaniards, and came directly from China where the stone fruits originate. Blood peaches have been growing in China for more than a thousand years and were first recorded in 1082. This is supported by the fact that no blood peach varieties grow in Spain or Mexico, and there is no written history of them ever growing in the regions.
Indian Blood peaches are originally native to southeastern Asia. They are believed to be an “old world” fruit, brought to Mexico with the Spanish explorers during the 16th century. Yet, just a century later, European explorers discovered Indian Blood peach trees growing in the southeastern United States by the Cherokee people. Unlike most stone fruit, which are grafted from budwood, the Indian Blood peach grows easily from seed, making it ideal for transport and sharing. This is what led European explorers to believe that the red-fleshed peach variety wound up in Georgia, South Carolina, and parts of North Carolina from Mexico. However, it may have been growing on the continent for far longer. Blood peaches have been cultivated and grown in China since before the 11th century. Seeds may have been brought by early Americans from the Asian continent well before European settlers. Indian Blood peaches attained notoriety when they were one of 38 varieties selected for planting in Thomas Jefferson's south orchard at the infamous Monticello, where they still grow today. At that time, they were referred to as the ‘black plum (or soft) peach of Georgia’. They can still be found occasionally growing in the wild of the Southeastern United States. Red-fleshed peaches can be found in Britain and France as “sanguine peaches”. In Southeastern France’s Provence and Savoy regions, blood peaches have been grown for hundreds of years. There they are called ‘peche de vigne’, after the practice of planting the trees among the grape vines as a litmus for pests and disease. The soft-fleshed peaches would fruit just as the grapes would begin to grow. Indian Blood peaches can be spotted at late-summer farmers markets, specialty stores or at roadside fruit stands most often in the American southeast.
Recipes that include Blood Peaches. One is easiest, three is harder.