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‘Saturn’ Peaches

They're neither round nor fuzzy, but though Saturn peaches may not look like your idea of peach their taste is out of this world.

| October/November 2006

  • Saturn peaches - peaches in basket
    ‘Saturn’ peaches have white flesh and are far better-tasting than other peach varieties.
    Photo by William D. Adams
  • saturn peaches - Chinese peach soup
    The best way to eat a fresh ‘Saturn’ peach surely is out of hand—as soon as you pick it. But you also can take your cue from Chinese royalty and transform delicious peaches into a tasty soup that can be served hot or cold.
    Rob Cardillo
  • saturn peaches - flat shape
    Because of their flat shape, ‘Saturn’ peaches have been given a variety of interesting appellations: ‘Doughnut,’ ‘Saucer,’ ‘Flat’ and ‘Bagel’ are a few.
    Rob Cardillo
  • saturn peaches - peach blossoms
    ‘Saturn’ peach trees provide a spectacular show of blossoms and an abundant harvest of terrific-tasting peaches.
    Rob Cardillo

  • Saturn peaches - peaches in basket
  • saturn peaches - Chinese peach soup
  • saturn peaches - flat shape
  • saturn peaches - peach blossoms

Old-time Chinese orchardists treated peaches with such reverence that they could be planted only within the royal precincts of the emperor. Their peaches were classified in one of two ways: golden (yellow flesh) or silver (white flesh). To the tribe of rare silver peaches belongs the mouthwatering peento (originally pan tao), the intensely flavored and odd-shaped peach we now know in the United States as the ‘Saturn’ peach. (Most U.S. peaches are yellow-fleshed varieties.) Low in acidity, much sweeter than yellow peaches and with almond overtones, ‘Saturn’ peaches simply taste better than other varieties. Plus, they’re easier to eat out of hand. The tiny pit doesn’t cling to the white flesh — you can pop it out with your thumb. Furthermore, ‘Saturn’ peach trees produce an abundant harvest, and the fruit’s thin red skin has little or no fuzz so it doesn’t have to be peeled.

Because of its unusual flattened shape, this peach is sometimes called the ‘Doughnut’ peach. Many supermarkets package the flat peaches in long boxes like those used for doughnuts, and market them as a good-for-you snack food.

The Frost-Hardy Peach

This peach emerged in south China at least 200 years ago, and the tree was so tender that it could be grown only in a few places outside of its original habitat. However, the Rutgers Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center at Cream Ridge, N.J., changed that. The original Chinese peach was not cold-hardy enough to grow in New Jersey, not even in the counties well known for peach culture. So the breeders at Rutgers, through a long process of trial and error, selected out a strain of peento with frost-resistant buds. This is critical because the tree blooms early — even before many cherry trees — and the masses of fluffy pink flowers make a spectacular show that rivals the most ornamental cherry trees.

This resistance to late frosts is what distinguishes the ‘Saturn’ peach from its parent, and why it was given a new name. The name refers to the fruit’s resemblance to the rings of Saturn. And now the peach is spawning a raft of stranger nicknames that may create confusion at the supermarket. For example, the yellow-fleshed version of the ‘Saturn’ peach is called ‘Sweet Bagel,’ and a very large-fruited ‘Saturn’ peach has come out with the name ‘Jupiter’ peach. Maybe this exotic peach deserves something a little more poetic — old Chinese poetry includes more romantic names such as Moonlight Kiss and Morning Dew.

Rutgers released the original ‘Saturn’ peach about 15 years ago to Stark Bro’s Nurseries and Orchards Co., which was licensed to propagate the tree and sell it commercially. Now that the license has expired, many other growers are offering it, and that’s why we are beginning to see this peach in stores across the country. The ‘Saturn’ peach also is popular in the United Kingdom and other parts of the European Union.

Peach Cultivation

The ‘Saturn’ peach has been bred to grow in cold-hardiness Zones 5 through 8, but the coldest parts of Zone 5 and the hottest parts of Zone 8 may present difficulties. The University of Florida is attempting to develop a strain more adaptable to the humid South, but no one has selected out a strain of ‘Saturn’ peach that will do well in the northern reaches of New England. Like other peaches, the ‘Saturn’ peach grows readily in most soils — just be sure to plant it in full sun. The tree usually will bear fruit in two to three years.

8/8/2015 11:13:24 PM are heavy producers!

8/8/2015 11:12:03 PM are heavy producers!

Mary Ebright
2/22/2012 8:47:03 PM

Hi All! I'm in Isle of Wight County VA and tried a Saturn peach last summer. It was so awesome, I want to get a tree. But I'd like to know if anyone in or near Isle of Wight County Virginia is growing Saturn or Flat Wonderful peaches with success. I'd hate to spend money on a tree if it doesn't produce fruit in my area. I'm hoping for input soon! :)

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