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Ougon peaches have a bright, beautiful, deep yellow-orange hue with little to no red blush typical to common peaches. Ougon peaches are a full-bodied fruit with thin skin, and they are very fragrant, with mango-like notes. The juicy and soft yellow flesh has a sweet, well-balanced apricot-like flavor. Ougon peaches grow on semi-hardy deciduous trees. Peaches naturally grow in clusters on the branches, but are picked so that just one fruit per branch remains. This ensures a large, sweet fruit that weighs around 10 to 11 ounces. The fruit is ready when it is soft to the touch and there is no green tinge to its skin.
Ougon peaches are available in the late summer to early autumn.
Ougon peaches are a rare Japanese peach, and bear the botanical name of Prunus persica. The trees are known for their delicate blooms in springtime, as well as for their fruit. Ougon peaches are grown primarily in Japan’s Nagano Prefecture, a temperate region famed for its fruit. Because Japanese orchards are small, they typically focus on growing high-quality fruit. Ougon Peaches are of that caliber, and are also considered to be rare since they are grown in just a few prefectures. Thus, they can be two to four times the price of a regular peach.
As with other peaches, Ougon peaches are rich in antioxidants. They are a great source of Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron and phosphorus. Yellow-fleshed peaches are especially rich in vitamin A.
Ougon peaches are best eaten raw. Because they are so juicy, they are often served peeled and sliced. They are rarely cooked or used for desserts, as other more common peaches are. However, Ougon peaches may be used to make premium liquor products, such as golden peach wine, sake, or shochu. The best of these liquor products will use hand-peeled Ougon peaches, and can be enjoyed straight or on the rocks. Ougon peaches in Japan are often sold carefully wrapped so that their soft flesh remains un-bruised in transport. These delicate fruits should be handled with care, and should never be squeezed to check for ripeness. Instead they should be gently pressed, and if the flesh yields to the touch, they are ready to eat. Ougon peaches should be stored at room temperature out of sunlight.
The peach is a symbol of longevity and immortality in China, the country of its origin. There, it is often depicted in artworks of the gods, and is one of the three blessed fruits in Buddhism. The peach is similarly revered in Japan, where peaches in myth have magical properties. There is even a popular Japanese folk tale called Momotaro, translated as Peach Boy, which tells of a baby found inside a peach by a childless couple. Because of such associations, and because the peach is a seasonal fruit, the peach is highly prized in Japan. For both the Japanese and the Chinese, gifts of peaches have historically symbolized friendship and were exchanged between the elite of both regions. Today, Ougon peaches can be found in expensive gift boxes in Japanese supermarkets when they are in season. Ougon peaches are treasured for their unusual golden hue, considered charming and lucky in Japan.
Peaches originated in China, and remnants of peaches were found in a Japanese archeological site that dates back to the Jomon period, which began in 14,000 BCE. They were used in Japan in its Heian era (794 to 1185), although were likely to have been used primarily for medicinal purposes. Peaches became popular in Japan in the Edo period (1603 to 1868), and were widely available throughout the country. Today, most peaches in Japan are descended from the sweet sumisutou peach, imported from Shanghai in the Meiji era (1868 to 1912), when full-scale peach cultivation in Japan began. In 1977, a new peach cultivar called kawanakajima-hakutou – a large, very sweet white peach - was made in Nagano. The Japanese Ougon peach may have been derived from this cultivar, or may also be a variety of the golden queen peach, an heirloom variety that reputedly was first grown in New Zealand in 1908. As with other peach trees, the Ougon peach tree enjoys well-drained soil and a warm climate with plenty of sunshine.