Just before the wild, once-in-a-century, flood, stormed through our city,
and burst the river banks , a friend went foraging across town and, then, treated me to some of her finds…beautiful, tree-ripened blackboy peaches…
Which are rarely found anywhere except in an old garden, or a forgotten corner of a park, or a vacant lot.
They are sweet as…in a tangy way, with a very distinct aroma and intense depth of flavour (struggling for words here…. perhaps the best description is …”definitely not an anaemic supermarket peach”).
They are delicious fresh from source, if you don’t mind the fuzzy, rough feel of the skin as it touches your tongue, but they are even better when cooked, not the least because of the rich purple-plum hue that the fruit develops as it mixes with sugar and heat.
Blackboy peaches are my favourite peach for baking and stewing and juicing and jam-ing.
But here’s the little bit of ‘delicate’ associated with them. I am not so peachy-keen on the name; blackboy. For as long as I can remember that has been their name, and, truthfully, I didn’t think much about it, until a few years ago. They were what they were, and always had been, at least in New Zealand. In much the same way, that Chinese gooseberries were Chinese gooseberries for my parents and grandparents until, one fine day, in 1959, they discovered they were not. The gooseberry (which it actually wasn’t anyway) had morphed in to kiwifruit because the American market was not too peachy-keen to bite anything tainted with the name Chinese. Yet, Chinese gooseberries, before they became kiwifruit, did, at least, have some logic to their name, since the seeds for the kiwifruit came to New Zealand from China, in 1904.
But blackboy peach….what’s with that name? No one, not even the plant nurseries, seems to know the whys and wherefores of this nomenclature, or how the tree came to New Zealand and became so popular with home gardeners. Or, if anyone does know, they’re not telling their tale on the internet. I have searched and searched, fruitlessly.
Was it called blackboy because our down-to-earth ancestors couldn’t be bothered with a fancified, foreign name similar to Sanguine de Manosque, or peche de vigne, or the rather gruesome sounding Blood Red Peach? Or did they find it confusing, or strange, to call them Indian peaches, or stranger still, Indian Blood Peaches ,and wanted to make them more homely and warm and friendly, so latched on to blackboy; in acknowledgement of the fruit’s skin texture and deep, rich colour. Since the blackboy peach has been a much-loved fruit, I doubt any harm or slur was intended by the name but, perhaps, if these trees and their delicious, precious fruit are to survive beyond a few backyards and abandoned sections, it’s time for a makeover. How about calling them something like, ‘Sweet as…’ What could be more modern ‘Kiwi’ than that, to honour a fine fruit of our New Zealand heritage?
Shall we drink to that?
A note of sympathy:
With the sun shining again, it has been peachy-keen for some of us, today. The some of us who have dry feet and dry homes, that is, and who can enjoy the sunshine without stressing about a massive clean-up and more insurance claims. It’s been a rough 36 hours, or more, for some of our citizens, and their trials are far from over. The earthquakes have changed land levels and river beds, and flooding will be an on-going problem in certain areas of the city.