This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
The Apple of Persia is our Peach (Amygdalus Persica), which grows on a tree whereof the young branches, leaves, and flowers possess more medicinal properties than the fruit. After being macerated in water they yield a volatile oil which is chemically identical with that of the bitter almond. The flowers are laxative, and have been used instead of manna. The fruit is wholesome, sub-acid, and luscious, seldom disagreeing if eaten ripe, and sound. Its quantity of sugar is but small, whilst the skin is indigestible. The leaves possess some of the properties of prussic acid, and must be only employed medicinally, and with caution. A syrup of Peach flowers was formerly made officinal by apothecaries. For the colic caused by gravel, Peach-flower tea will allay the pain. Gerarde advises that "a strong infusion of Peach flowers doth singularly well purge the belly, and yet without grief, or trouble, - two tablespoonfuls for a dose".
Peach Pie, owing to the abundance of this fruit, is as common fare in an American farmhouse as is apple pie in an English homestead. Our notable King John died at Swinestead Abbey from a surfeit of Peaches, and new ale. The kernels of this fruit, when it is crushed, yield likewise an oil similar to that of bitter almonds, which has proved poisonous to children, also to pet animals on their cracking a Peach stone. In Sicily there is a belief that anyone afflicted with goitre who eats a Peach on the night of St. John, or the Ascension Eve, will be cured, provided only that the Peach tree begins to perish at the same time. Thackeray one day at dessert was taken to task by a colleague of his on the Punch staff, Angus B. Reach, whom he addressed as Mr. Reach instead of as (Scottice) Mr. Re-ack. With ready humour Thackeray replied, "Be good enough, Mr. Re-ack, to pass me a Pe-ack." As containing very little sugar, Peaches are an allowable, and refreshing fruit for diabetic sufferers. Peach-water is a flavouring extract used in cookery, being obtained from the fresh leaves of the tree by bruising them, and mixing the pulp with water, and distilling it. If made in this way it retains the flavour of bitter almonds, and will serve to relieve the nausea of a qualmish stomach when carefully administered.
Again, home-made Peach wine, brewed from the sweetened juice of mashed ripe Peaches, together with some of the leaves, is excellent for soothing an irritable stomach in a sensitive weakly person liable to sickness after food; a little cinnamon, and vanilla are added in the making. Take a hundred thoroughly ripe Peaches, skin them, and remove the stones; mash up the fruit in an earthenware dish, and add a pint of water sweetened, with some well-flavoured honey; pass it through the sieve, and press out the pulp thoroughly; pour all the liquid, into an earthenware pitcher; add four pounds of sugar, a quarter of a pound of Peach leaves, a little cinnamon, a little vanilla, and as much in quantity of good white wine as there is of Peach-juice. Allow it to ferment, covering the pitcher well. When the liquid is thoroughly settled, filter, and put it into bottles. Some persons add a bottle of Eau-de-Vie to the mixture, but this is not necessary. The Peach wine made in this way, besides being very agreeable to the taste, is an excellent stomachic, with sedative virtues because of the soupcon of weak prussic acid in the leaves; it will admirably suit a delicate sensitive digestion.
Wine of Plums, or of Apricots, may be brewed in a like manner, except that as these fruits are sweeter than the Peach, less sugar need be used. Again, Ratafias, of bitter Almonds, because of the same inherent principle, make a most useful culinary ingredient for puddings, or other plain dishes to suit a qualmish stomach inclined to sickness. Thus: "Put a pint of milk into a basin; add to it two tablespoonfuls of fine sugar, a pinch of salt, and six or seven drops of essence of Ratafias, or of bitter Almonds; beat six eggs for two, or three minutes, and mix them with the milk; pour into a well-buttered mould, and steam for an hour." Peach brandy is a spirituous liquor distilled from the fermented juice of the Peach. For delicate invalids whose appetite must be coaxed, Peach foam is a simple tempting nicety. "Skin, and cut into quarters, three or four choice, and very ripe Peaches, so that when done there shall be a cupful; put them into a basin with half a cupful of powdered sugar, and the white of one egg; beat this mixture with a fork for half an hour, when it will have become a thick, perfectly smooth, velvety cream, with a delightful Peach flavour, and so innocent that it may be eaten almost ad libitum." For making Peach jam, thoroughly ripe and sound autumn fruit should be used, as having the best flavour, and most perfume; a few of the stones should be broken, and their kernels, when blanched, be added to the jam, first passed through a hair sieve.