Prunus persica

In my last post, I talked about grafting apple trees as a way to grow more or different varieties on an existing tree. One thing I didn’t fully address in that discussion is why pretty much all fruit trees you might purchase are topworked in some way by the nursery—most often the desired variety is budded onto an appropriate rootstock. Beyond the issue of using the character of the rootstock to determine the ultimate size of the tree, it would be reasonable to ask why more fruit trees are not simply grown from seed. The answer to this lies in the fact that for most common fruits, a seedling tree will most often bear little resemblance to its two parents, as there is so much genetic variability in say, apples, for example, that recessive traits often resurface. So in crossing two big sweet, red apples, you may well end up with a runty crab-like fruit with little or poor flavor. In addition to being a gamble, growing from seed also requires extra patience, as the seedling will obviously take much longer to grow to bearing age than would a grafted or budded tree.  Occasionally, a seedling tree is found to have exceptional fruit, with unique shape, color, flavor, resistance to pests and/or disease, or long-term keeping qualities, but this is a relative rarity. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try, as you may get lucky, or famous, or at least get to name your own variety, but don’t bet the farm on it. There is one significant exception to this rule, however—the peach.

peach

Peaches are known for being ‘true to type’ when grown from seed much more often than our other major temperate-zone fruits. This also holds true for nectarines, which are really just a naked (fuzzless) peach—they are each classified botanically as Prunus persica.  So if you want to grow some peach trees (believe me you do, whether you know it or not), and you’re not in a terrible hurry, save the pit from the next delicious peach you eat—a locally grown peach if possible, as it will most likely be adapted to your climate. In my case, I saved about two dozen pits from a young Sunhaven tree in my orchard which bore a crop for the first time last year. They were truly the most delicious peaches I have ever eaten. Long before I ever had my own orchard I had read about how there is nothing like eating a ripe, juicy peach right off the tree, blah blah blah,whatever….Well, all these years later I’m here to tell you folks…………………It’s true. I would stand beside this tree late last August picking and eating  a half-dozen or more at a time, every day until they were gone. No comparison to a supermarket peach whatsoever.

Like many other seeds, your peach seed will need to be cold stratified—basically it will need to experience a real (or simulated) winter before it will break dormancy and be able to germinate. You could bury them in a pot outside for the winter, or do as I did with mine and put it in a ziploc bag in the back of your refrigerator with a few drops of water for the winter. When spring rolls around, you then need to plant the seeds, but your success rate will be much higher (and things will move along much quicker) if you crack open the hard outer seed coat first, which can be challenging without the right tools. I tried a hand-held nutcracker, then a large pair of pliers, but peach pits are hard, and I had to apply so much pressure that my precious seeds went flying, as did the ‘shrapnel’ from the broken pits. I also mashed one of my fingers between the handles of the pliers, which didn’t make me very happy. So here’s what I came up with:

peach pit in vise

Using a vise allowed me to put great pressure on the pit, but in a very controlled, gradual way. I could actually hold the pit with one hand while cranking the vise with the other. This is the result:

opened peach pit

peach seeds

One thing you can see right away is the resemblance of a peach seed to an almond. They are in fact very closely related botanically, each belonging to the Prunus genus (almonds are P. amygdalus). So all these seeds are now planted in pots, and should be coming to life any time now. Near all peach trees are self-fertile, so you can get by with just one and still get a crop, but growing them this way is so easy (and so cheap), why not start your own peach orchard?

6 Comments on “Prunus persica

  1. i have grown dozens of peach pits, some of them in bearing age now and they are fantastic. I have found to take it to another level you can plant the pit in the ground where you want the tree in the fall, and come spring it grows. The benefit to this is the taproot the tree has. which provides for some VERY drought hardy peach trees. and of course peaches that don’t need regular watering by humans just taste 10x better than peaches with irrigation.

    • That is great—I hope mine do as well. Thanks for sharing your experience. I can definitely see the benefit of avoiding having to transplant.

  2. We are going to have to beg you for some seeds from your tree and see if they will grow at Hawk Circle! We will be trying different varieties too! This will be really great.

    What are the other things you need to do for peaches to help them grow? Do you recommend other specific things, like certain fertilizers, or pruning techniques…, etc.?

    Another great post!

    • Hey Rick-
      If these seeds have sprouted by next month, I’ll bring a potful to Primitive Pursuits day for you (maybe this could serve as a payoff for our Celtics-Kings bet!). You’re in a cold spot, so be thinking about finding a sunny area (on a slope if possible) that is sheltered from the worst of your winter winds for siting your trees.

  3. Hey Jeff, how did your peach seedlings make out? It is super dry here right now, so I have been watering my elderberries that we planted last fall because they were wilting, and we are hoping for rain…

    I had some good peaches the other day and saved the seeds, but I don’t know where they came from, so I don’t know if I will plant them. We will see. Maybe I will throw them in the back of the freeze anyway, just in case!

    Let me know and I will find a good place to get our mini orchard going near our house, which isn’t too cold….

    • Hey Rick-
      So far, I have gotten some germination, but not as much as I had hoped. Maybe I didn’t stratify them long enough (?). I guess time will tell.

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