Photo by DEA / STECIA via Getty Images

Huzzah for hybrids!

Kat Kinsman
August 21, 2018

Peaches are heaven. Peaches are hell. The flesh within a peak-season, perfectly ripened peach is a reward to humans from the universe for continuing to exist amidst the constant torrent of indignities. The fuzz, however, is unnerving, and taking the pains to remove it is tedious. Nectarines have a delightful flavor (perhaps a shade less sweet than a peach) and smooth skin, but their primary flaw is that they're not a peach. Close, yes, and genetically separated by a single allele that inhibits fuzz, but somehow emotionally, physically, and culturally less resonant. J. Alfred Prufrock wasn't hemming and hawing over nectarines, Call Me By Your Name's Elio wasn't carnally exploring the fruit, and the Presidents of the United States of America didn't write an inexplicably popular song about them. Even plums snagged a shoutout in that William Carlos Williams poem that everyone was memeing a few months ago, and plums are pretty terrible. Nectarines get a mention in a Mike Doughty song, but they're definitely playing second banana to peaches in the fruit hierarchy.

There exists a quite pleasant compromise, and it's not a creepy GMO frankenfuit. A 1909 issue of Pacific Monthly reported that horticulturist J. W. Philippi had developed the peacherine (also spelled peacharine), a peach-nectarine hybrid that "combines the solidity and flavor of the nectarine with all the good qualities of the peach" and that the resultant fervor for it from consumers around the world had allowed him to earn an annual profit of $2,000 from a single acre—around $55,000 in 2018 dollars. A Scott Joplin composition, "The Peacherine Rag," predated this announcement by eight years, but as it is an instrumental, the direct fruit connection is tenuous.

The notion of peacherines raises questions, perhaps because they're not widely available and because food culture has jaded so many of us on the concept of mash-ups. But I believe this hybrid is even better than either of its parent fruit. The surface is substantially less fuzzy than a peach, if at all, and the flavor and texture of the flesh inside is so similar to that of a peach, you'd be hard-pressed to say it wasn't one if you tasted it with your eyes closed. If you're a fan of stone fruit like I am, it's the best of all worlds.

Perhaps, then, the problem is its marketing. The stone fruit season is so cruelly short, it might not be viable for small growers to devote part of their orchard space to growing a crop that the general public might be all huh? about. There's likely not a peacherine lobby schmoozing members of Congress with homemade tarts and pies, and the SEC isn't gearing up for a Peacherine Bowl come December. So perhaps the fruit-loving poets, filmmakers, and songwriters of the world could band together on some peacherine-awareness art to win the public's hearts over to this exceptional produce. I'm getting all warm and fuzzy just thinking about it.

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