The peach tree is a small, bushy, deciduous tree or large shrub with a spreading crown and millions of fragrant blossoms in the spring.
It belongs to the same genus (Prunus) as apricot, plum, cherry, almond and sloe (blackthorn).
The peach tree originates from China and has a long history that goes back at least 3000 years.
Today it's widely cultivated throughout temperate regions. Peach trees growing in the wild are rarely found.
The tree has lance-shaped, shiny and dark green leaves, pale pink to lavender blossoms and soft, fleshy and juicy stone fruits (drupes) with hairy skin.
The fruit contains a big, furrowed stone or pit with a single seed or kernel.
Peach seeds (tao ren) can contain high levels of hydrogen cyanide, a toxic compound.
There are numerous varieties of peaches, and they are classified in three different categories:
The peach fruits are eaten fresh, cooked (boiled, fried, grilled), candied, canned or dried.
Peaches are also used in the making of wine, brandy and liqueurs and to flavour ice cream, candy and sweets.
Blossoms are used in herb tea, and also distilled into liquor.
Leaves are infused in brandy to make cordials.
The seeds or kernels are a source of bitter almond oil, used in food flavouring. The oil is also used in skin care products and aromatherapy.
In Western medicine, bark and leaves are used in cough syrup. In Chinese medicine, leaves are used for malaria and the seeds (tao ren) for coughs and asthma.