Apples, Peaches, Plums, Pears, and More
The apple has been a longtime American favorite, and indeed, according to some apple experts, back in the early 1900s, an inventory listed at least 17,000 varieties worldwide. Today, probably only 2,000 to 3,000 apple varieties remain—which is why such organizations such as the Old-Time Apple Growers Association in central Virginia work to preserve heirloom varieties.
Peaches, of course, strike a happy chord with many people, both here and abroad. It’s a joyous fruit, often talked about in terms of positive associations and life being wonderful. Perhaps its folklore is what links it to these positive thoughts: the Chinese have associated the peach with longevity.
Available fresh in peak summer season, peaches also come canned and frozen. Its varieties include the freestone, the clingstone, and the semi-freestones. Perhaps the most intriguing peach is the doughnut-shaped one called the “doughnut” peach. The peach’s nearest kin, the nectarine, is often thought of as a cross between a plum and a peach; in fact, the nectarine is a natural fruit with nearly 100 different varieties of freestone and clingstone fruits.
Related to peaches and nectarines, the plum apparently grew first in China before it began its global voyage. Although there are about 100 varieties, only 20 or so are readily sold in the marketplace from May through October. Plums also cook up well. It’s worth noting that plums are recognized as a cure for constipation; the stimulating substance resides in the skin, so you may want to peel your plums first if need be.
A relative of the apple, the pear has often been reckoned as a gift from the gods, as the Greek writer Homer once described them. It is the honey-sweet flavor of its juicy flesh that makes this such a desirable fruit. Of the 3,000 or so varieties, perhaps the most notable ones are the Bartletts, red and green Anjous, and the Comice.