More than 300 peach varieties are grown in North America alone, but China produces the most peaches in the world. But the main thing you need to know about a peach is whether it has either yellow or white flesh and if the pit, or stone, is a clingstone, freestone, or semi-freestone.
Most peaches in the U.S. are of the yellow-flesh type. They tend to have more of an acidic tang than white-flesh peaches, with a more intense flavor and darker skin.
White Flesh Peaches
White flesh peaches are more popular in Asia but are becoming more available in the U.S. They are more delicate and easily bruised, though tougher varieties exist now, which is aiding their availability. They are very sweet, with a delicate, floral sweetness, that some consider to be a bit too bland and “like a fuzzy ball of water”. . They have a low acidity along with a smoother texture than yellow-flesh peaches. They also have a more pale color to the skin. Donut peaches are an heirloom white flesh variety that are flat and low in acid. They are generally only found at farmers markets.
Freestone peaches have pits that do not stick to the fruit. It “flies free” and is easily removable and comes out cleanly. There are many varieties and they are most often eaten like apples, in the hand. They tend to be larger and less juicy than clingstones.
Clingstone peaches have fruit that clings to the seed pit, and are a bit more messy. They are softer, sweeter, and juicier than freestone peaches, and are used for canning and preserving. Commercially canned peaches are almost always clingstones. Farmers markets are more likely to have clingstones, since most grocery stores only sell freestones.
Semi-Freestone peaches are hybrids between freestones and clingstones developed to combine the easy eating and pitting traits of the freestones with the juicy sweetness of the clingstones.
Nectarines and peaches are actually the same species, Prunus persica, even though commercially they are considered to be different fruits. Nectarines have a smooth skin, believed to be a recessive trait, and peaches have a fuzzy skin which is the dominant trait for the species. It is not unusual to find both fruits on the same tree, although they tend to be smaller and sweeter. Nectarines can also be white-flesh, yellow-flesh, clingstone or freestone. Nectarines have a bit more vitamin C, along with double the amount of vitamin A, They are also a richer source of potassium.
Peacharines exist and are only available in Australia. They are said to be a cross between peaches and nectarines, which seems a bit odd to cross something with itself, but this one seems to be more of a language game from Down Under than anything else.
A peeled peach or nectarine will have less calories, less fiber and less vitamins. So eat the peel, even if it is a bit fuzzy and tickles on the way down, for maximum health benefits.
People often peel peaches because of the fuzz, and nectarines, also, but they are removing a lot of the health benefits by doing so. They believe the skin has pesticides on it, which may or may not be true. But the skin is meant to be eaten with the peach, just like you eat the casing with the sausage. Washing your peaches and nectarines before eating them is always a good idea, and that alleviates the issue. Buying organic fruit solves that issue completely, so eat the skin.
Also, it’s OK to crack open the peach pit and eat the inner almond-like kernel. As with many other members of the rose family (Rosacea), peach seeds contain cyanogenic glycosides, including amygdalin (it’s subgenus designation is Amygdalus)..Amygdalin, (also known as vitamin B17 or Laetrile), is a molecule that is part of the nitrilosides family of anti-cancer compounds. And, like the apple, amygdalin contains cyanide which is “unlocked” by a cancer cell and only by a cancer cell. Healthy cells are not be affected or harmed because they do not contain the enzyme that “unlocks” the cyanide. Therefore, B17 should only come from food sources, not from supplements. So, go ahead and eat the prize inside.