Peento peaches, also called donut or saucer peaches, are commercially-available in late July to early August in Missouri. While this type of fruit is flat in shape, they are not lacking in flavor when ripened on the tree. Both white and yellow-fleshed cultivars are available and they are generally semi-clingstone or clingstone (Figure 1).
The peento peach is an ancient fruit from China. The wild type, also known as pan tao was known as early as the 12th century B.C., but were later imported to other continents. By 1828, peento peaches were imported into North America, by William Prince, who is credited with the establishment of the first commercial nursery in the United States at of Flushing, New York. Early references mention that Prince grew twenty peento trees, but further information regarding these trees is unknown.
In 1859, Prosper J. Berckmans, owner of Fruitland Nurseries in Augusta, Georgia, imported peento seed from Australia. Berckmans first listed these peaches in his Descriptive Catalog in 1875, stating that the peento seedlings were very early blooming and some produced double crimson flowers, but they had not yet produced fruit. Peento trees were very expensive at 50 cents each compared with other traditionally-grown cultivars that were only 15 to 25 cents each.
Meanwhile, Berckmans persuaded Colonel Yniestra to plant a few trees at Belle Vue in Pensacola, Florida. In Berckmans' 1880 catalog, it states that one, 3-year-old peento tree produced 1200 peaches in Pensacola. The fruit had a pale greenish-white skin with a mottled red cheek, was 2 to 2.5 inches in diameter, and had a delicate almond aroma. These trees were offered for sale for 25 cents each. By 1890, Berckmans mentioned in his catalog that the peento peaches harvested at the proper time were sold in Northern markets for as much as $50 per bushel (worth $1461 today). By this time, he also sold eleven different varieties of peento including Angel, Arlington, Barr's Early and Late, Bidwell's Early, Late, and No. 7; June Beauty, Maggie, Waldo, and Yum-Yum (Figure 2). These varieties originated from Florida plantings and were offered for 15 cents each. Perhaps, the novelty of peento peaches was diminishing by then. By 1892, they were no longer listed in Berckmans' catalog.
The resurgence of interest in the peento peach was not until a century later. Catherine Bailey and L. Fredric Hough from Rutgers University are credited with the development of the first peento-type peach. Stark Brother's nursery acquired patent rights to this white-fleshed cultivar in 1983 and named it Saturn. Thereafter, other nurseries clamored to market other selections of donut peaches. Some of the currently-available yellow-skinned donut peach cultivars with white flesh include Lucious, Sauzee Swirl, and Galaxy. TangOs II is a unique cultivar with a greenish-yellow skin at maturity.
Some of the red-skinned donut peach cultivars with yellow-flesh are Flat Wonderfuls, Sweet Bagels, BuenOs, BuenOs II, UFO, and Saturn Gold. TangOs and Peach Pie have yellow skin and similar-colored flesh.
Most donut peach trees are self-pollinating so only one tree can be planted and will produce fruit. However, the BuenOs cultivar is an exception. These trees are pollen-sterile so another peach cultivar must be planted for cross-pollination and successful fruit production. Also, cultivars such as BuensOs, Buenos II, Tangos, and TangOs II are resistant to bacterial spot disease. Since bacterial spot is difficult to control, cultivars resistant to this disease are recommended for planting in Missouri.
REVISED: August 13, 2020