Peaches-art - 6/26/14
"Peaches" by THL Madoc Arundel, CSH, CLM.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
by THL Madoc Arundel, CSH, CLM
Peaches are one of the more popular fruits for modern brewers, and no wonder. Peaches have an abundance of juice when ripe, can be extremely sweet, sport a very complex flavor combination, and impart a delightful aroma rich with esters. Peaches also lend themselves to a successful brewing experience through their basic chemistry. Peaches are rich in B-complex vitamins as well as vitamin C, both of which contribute positively to the fermentation process. Peaches contain a significant amount of calcium as well, which helps to balance acids in a finished brew. If there is a downside, it is that peaches are high in potassium, which tends to stifle yeast activity throughout primary and secondary fermentation cycles.
As much as modern brewers appreciate the peach, throughout history the peach was prized more for its food value than its zymurgological applications.
Peaches definitely fall into the SCA time period. Peaches were first cultivated in western China between three and four millenia ago. These peaches were smallish, firm, and mixed between the fuzzy and smooth varieties. Apparently, they not only tasted good, but they traveled well. Rumor has it that they migrated towards Persia along the ancient spice road by means of travelers discarding the pits from eaten fruit along the way. Alexander the Great, in turn, brought them back to eastern Europe after his conquest of the Persian empire. The Greek philosopher Theophrastus assumed the peach originated in Persia and named it the Persian apple.
Ultimately, the spread of peaches throughout the rest of Europe follows the conquests of the Roman empire. Peaches were introduced into Italy from the Balkan peninsula during the transition period between Greek and Roman dominance. From the first century of the modern era, peaches are mentioned in numerous writings as a foodstuff, and archeological evidence shows that they were used prolifically. Burnt peach pits are even found in tombs in the Lombardi region of Italy from that time period. showing that they were held in some regard. Hundreds of peach stones were recovered from the filling of the main drainage sewers of the Rome coliseum; the obstruction apparently occurred in correspondence with the last games that took place there. Peach cultivation appears to have reached into regions north of the Alps in the latter half of the 1st century and early part of the 2nd century. While the earliest digs show evidence of peaches in Germany earlier, there are three times as many sites dating between 50 A.D. And 150 A.D as there are earlier sites.
France had an absolute love affair with peaches in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. The French took up the cultivation of peaches, where other parts of Europe had simply allowed them to grow wild. They gave the different varieties that they developed feminine names, the most interesting of which was Téton de Vénus (nipple of Venus.) The finest peaches came from a Paris suburb called Montreuil, where growers developed a way of growing the peaches on thin branches running up trellises. Louis XIV was said to have loved these peaches so much that he awarded a lifetime pension to the first man who provided him with Montreuil peaches.
Fresh fruits were generally not part of the typical diet in the middle ages. The tendency for fruits to brown or over-ripen made them suspect, and they were typically preserved by one of several methods: candied, jammed, pickled in wine or vinegar, or soaked in honey. Peaches were especially suspect because they are a tender fruit and bruise very easily. In northern Italy, peaches were most often pitted, and soaked in vats of wine for a time. They would then be taken out of the wine and served as an appetizer. There is also a reference to a Miquel Iranzo in Baenza, Spain in1463 referring to pears and peaches soaked in wine during a festival, much like modern sangria.
Medieval dietetic considerations toward fruits were full of wariness. Doctors tended to want to reject them, but since their patients wouldn't take their fears into account, doctors would recommend eating the fruits cooked rather than raw and gave strict rules altogether for eating these dangerous fruits. Here are some, taken from articles written by Jean-Louis Flandrin: 'Those fruits, which are cold and difficult to preserve, must imperatively be eaten at the beginning of the meal: cherries, plums, apricots, peaches, figs, blackberries, grapes, melons" 
Fruits were also confectioned as a point of medicine. Various fruits and nuts are highlighted as the principle ingredient in jams used for medicinal purposes, as highlighted in Treatise on cosmetics and conserves by Nostradamus (Lyon, 1552.)
In Catalonia, the first book about jams is the Llibre de totes maneres de confits, probably 14th century. It has 33 recipes for candied fruit and jams, with watermelon, almonds, lemon, quinces, turnips and parsnips, carrots, peaches, apples, pears, green walnuts, dates and cherries. In Italy, at the Renaissance, Stefano Francesco di Romolo Rosselli explained, in Secreti (1593), how to candy quinces, plums and peaches. Giovanni del Turco, gives, in the Terzo Libro (3rd book) of the Epulario e segreti vari (1602), a few recipes for candied fruit as well as peach, orange and citron jams. 
It is obvious that peaches were a valued fruit throughout Europe in the middle ages. Yet, with all of the evidence that peaches were cultivated across medieval Europe, and all of the evidence that they were appreciated as a dietary supplement, to date, I have found no reference to actual production of alcoholic beverages from peaches in Europe, north Africa, or the near east during our time period.
. USDA Handbook number 8
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. George Hill Orchards, p. 3.
. Walkabout Magazine, issue 22.
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. Jacomet, p. 271-310.
. Viola, p. 2.
. Bulit, p. 4.
. Ibid, p. 7.
. Ibid, p. 8.
Andreotti, C. et al, "Phenolic compounds in peach cultivars at harvest and during fruit maturation". Annals of Applied Biology 153:11, 2008.
Bassi, D. and Piagnani, M.C., "Botany. Morphology and phenology", in R. Angelini (Ed.) - The Peach, Bologna, 2008.
Bulit, Jean-Marc, "Fruit in Medieval Europe", Maitre-Chiquart, 2014.
Castelletti, L., "Macroscopic plant remains and the remains of food from the Roman necropolis of Angera", in G. Sena Chiesa (Ed.) - Angera-Roman Excavations in the Necropolis, University of Milan, Rome, 1985.
Clark, G. et al, "The food refuse of an affluent urban household in the late fourteenth century: faunal and botanical remains from Palazzo Vitelleschi, Tarquinia (Viterbo)", Papers of the British School at Rome, LVII,
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Follieri, M., "Macroscopic plant remains in the West of the Colosseum manifold", Annals of Botany, 34, 1975.
George Hill Orchards, "Some Peach History", http://www.yourfavoritefarm.com/harvest_peaches.html.
Jacomet, S., "Charred vegetable macro: remains from excavations in Augst and Kaiseraugst in culture and wild plant finds as information sources about the Romans", Annual Reports of Augst and Kaiseraugst 9, 1988.
Nolas, "A Pottage Called a Peach Dish", Cuesco , 2013.
"Peach and Nectarine Culture", University of Rhode Island, 2000.
Persian Apples: What came first, the chicken or the egg, the peach or the nectarine?, Walkabout Magazine, Portland, OR, 2013.
Sadori, L., et al, "The introduction and diffusion of peach in ancient Italy", Department of Plant Biology, University of Rome, in Plants and Culture: Seeds of the Cultural Heritage of Europe, Edipuglia s.r.l., 2009.
Spiegel-Roy, P., "Domestication of fruit trees", in C. Barigozzi (Ed.) -The Origin and Domestication of Cultivated Plants, Amsterdam, Elsevier, 1986.
USDA Handbook Number 8: National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, US Department of Agriculture Science and Education Administration, 1992.
van derVeen, M., "When is food a luxury?", World Archaeology , 34 (3), 2003.
Viola, D., Peaches: Luck, Abundance, Protection, http://www.inmamaskitchen.com/FOOD_IS_ART/peacharticle.html.
Zohary, D and Hopf, M., Domestication of Plants in the Old World, 3rd Edition, Oxford University Press, 2000.
Copyright 2014 by Chris Miller. <madoc_arundel at yahoo.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited. Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, please place a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.