As fruits go, the peach has one of the more interesting histories. Its genus, prunus is classified within the rose family, and includes other stone fruit (or drupe)-producing trees like the cherry, plum and apricot.
Peach trees have Persica in their name primarily because early Westerners, starting with the Greeks, believed them to be Persian in origin. In fact they originated in China where they were cultivated at least as far back as 10,000 BC. Peaches grow easily from seeds, and that made them easily portable for the traders that moved them along the Silk Road from China westward into Kashmir and ultimately into what is now modern day Iran (where they thrived). That was in about about 2,000 BC.
Though there’s no actual written evidence of it, most food historians believe that the peach was brought to Greece by Alexander the Great not long after he vanquished the Greeks’ arch enemies, the Persians, in about 330 BC. Shortly afterward the peach started popping up in Greek writings, notably in those of the philosopher/scientist Theophrastus in 288 BC.
From the classical Greeks is was just a short cultural hop over to the Romans, who spread the fruit all around their empire, all the way up to Britain. Indeed peach pits have been founded in excavated Roman refuse piles dating to 200 AD. Interestingly, peaches never really took hold there, and had to be reintroduced from France in the 1500’s.
Ultimately it was the Spanish who brought peaches to the Americas, where they ultimately thrived in the so-called “Chesapeake Peach Belt” from Maryland to Delaware and up into New Jersey. But of course it was Georgia that really became synonymous with the peach trees. I lived there briefly about 10 years ago, and there have to be 20 different streets in Atlanta called “Peach Tree” this or that. No wonder I could never find anything. Today it’s South Carolina and California that are responsible for the bulk of the annual American crop.