The origin of the apricot is disputed; it was known in Armenia during ancient times, and has been cultivated there for so long that it is often thought to have originated there. An archaeological excavation at Garni in Armenia found apricot seeds in a Chalcolithic-era site. Its scientific name Prunus armeniaca (Armenian plum) derives from that assumption. For example, the Belgian arborist Baron de Poerderlé, writing in the 1770s, asserted, “Cet arbre tire son nom de l’Arménie, province d’Asie, d’où il est originaire et d’où il fut porté en Europe …” (“this tree takes its name from Armenia, province of Asia, where it is native, and whence it was brought to Europe …”)
The fruit was known to the Akkadians, who called it supurgillu; Arabic سفرجل al safarjal “quinces” (collective plural), as well as in Judea of Israel during the Mishnaic era where it was called perishin (פרישין collective plural, or sing. prish); quince flourished in the heat of the Mesopotamian plain, where apples did not. It was cultivated from an archaic period around the Mediterranean. The Greeks associated it with Cydonia on Crete, as the “Cydonian pome”, and Theophrastus, in his Enquiry into Plants, noted that quince was one of many fruiting plants that do not come true from seed. As a sacred emblem of Aphrodite.
The cultivation of the domesticated grape began 6,000–8,000 years ago in the Near East. Yeast, one of the earliest domesticated microorganisms, occurs naturally on the skins of grapes, leading to the discovery of alcoholic drinks such as wine. The earliest archeological evidence for a dominant position of wine-making in human culture dates from 8,000 years ago in Georgia.
The oldest known winery was found in Armenia, dating to around 4000 BC. By the 9th century AD the city of Shiraz was known to produce some of the finest wines in the Middle East. Thus it has been proposed that Syrah red wine is named after Shiraz, a city in Persia where the grape was used to make Shirazi wine.
Pear cultivation in cool temperate climates extends to the remotest antiquity, and there is evidence of its use as a food since prehistoric times. Many traces of it have been found in prehistoric pile dwellings around Lake Zurich. The word “pear”, or its equivalent, occurs in all the Celtic languages, while in Slavic and other dialects, differing appellations, still referring to the same thing, are found—a diversity and multiplicity of nomenclature which led Alphonse Pyramus de Candolle to infer a very ancient cultivation of the tree from the shores of the Caspian to those of the Atlantic.
Although its botanical name Prunus persica refers to Persia (present Iran) from where it came to Europe, genetic studies suggest peaches originated in China, where they have been cultivated since the neolithic period. Until recently, it was believed that the cultivation started c. 2000 BC. More recent evidence indicates that domestication occurred as early as 6000 BC in Zhejiang Province of China. The oldest archaeological peach stones are from the Kuahuqiao site. Archaeologists point to the Yangtze River Valley as the place where the early selection for favorable peach varieties probably took place. Peaches were mentioned in Chinese writings and literature beginning from the early 1st millennium BC.
Plums may have been one of the first fruits domesticated by humans. Three of the most abundant cultivars are not found in the wild, only around human settlements: Prunus domestica has been traced to East European and Caucasian mountains, while Prunus salicina and Prunus simonii originated in Asia. Plum remains have been found in Neolithic age archaeological sites along with olives, grapes and figs. According to Ken Albala, plums originated in Iran.
The heart-shaped Hachiya is the most common variety of astringent persimmon. Astringent persimmons contain very high levels of soluble tannins and are unpalatable if eaten before completely softened, though the sweet, delicate flavor of fully ripened persimmons of varieties that are astringent when unripe is particularly relished. The astringency of tannins is removed in various ways.
Pests and diseasesEtymology and antiquityThe English word cherry derives from Old Northern French or Norman cherise from the Latin cerasum, referring to an ancient Greek region, Kerasous (Κερασοῦς) near Giresun, Turkey, from which cherries were first thought to be exported to Europe. The indigenous range of the sweet cherry extends through most of Europe, western Asia, and parts of northern Africa, and the fruit has been consumed throughout its range since prehistoric times. A cultivated cherry is recorded as having been brought to Rome by Lucius Licinius Lucullus from northeastern Anatolia, also known as the Pontus region, in 72 BC.
Malus sieversii is recognized as a major progenitor species to the cultivated apple, and is morphologically similar. Due to the genetic variability in Central Asia, this region is generally considered the center of origin for apples. The apple is thought to have been domesticated 4000-10000 years ago in the Tian Shan Mountains, and then to have travelled along the Silk Road to Europe, with hybridization and introgression of wild crabapples from Siberia (M. baccata (L.) Borkh.), Caucasus (M. orientalis Uglitz.), and Europe (M. sylvestris Mill.).
The pomegranate is native to a region from modern-day Iran to northern India. Pomegranates have been cultivated throughout the Middle East, South Asia, and Mediterranean region for several millennia, and it is also cultivated in the Central Valley of California and in Arizona. Pomegranates may have been domesticated as early as the 5th millennium BC, as they were one of the first fruit trees to be domesticated in the eastern Mediterranean region.