Toronto: Do you relish the flavour of peaches? You can now thank the Chinese for domesticating the fruit some 7,500 years ago, a study suggests.
Domestic peaches enjoyed worldwide today can trace their ancestry back at least 7,500 years ago, to the lower Yangtze river valley in southern China, not far from Shanghai, the study noted.
"Previously, no one knew where peaches were domesticated," said Gary Crawford from the University of Toronto, Mississauga in Canada.
"None of the botanical literature suggested the Yangtze Valley, although many people thought that it happened somewhere in China," Crawford added.
The study, headed by Yunfei Zheng from the Zhejiang Institute of Archaeology in China, was done in collaboration with Crawford and X. Chen, another researcher from the Zhejang Institute.
Peach stones are well represented at archaeological sites in the Yangtze Valley. So for the study, the researchers compared the size and structure of the stones from six sites that spanned a period of roughly 5,000 years.
By comparing the size of the stones from each site, they were able to discern peaches growing significantly larger over time in the Yangtze Valley, demonstrating that domestication was taking place.
"We are suggesting that very early on, people understood grafting and vegetative reproduction, because it sped up selection," Crawford said.
It took about 3,000 years before the domesticated peach resembled the fruit we know today, the researchers said.
The study appeared in the journal PLOS ONE.