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Publication : 2012
Author : François DROUET
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French names for Prunus persica categories


(peaches and nectarines)




In English speaking countries, all the smooth skin peaches are named "nectarines". 

In France, there are two terms for referring to these fruits : "nectarine" is reserved for the smooth skin peaches which have a free stone, not sticking to the flesh. When the stone adheres to the flesh, the used term is "brugnon".

This is the only criterion which justifies the name difference. The flesh may be white or yellow, for the two categories.

And recently a French breeder has brought onto the market a "nectarine" (French meaning) with a red flesh, under the brand name "Nectavigne". As far as we know, there is not yet a "brugnon" with red flesh.

The terms "nectarine" and "brugnon" are used in the distribution channels and in the supermarkets. So, the majority of the general public, not specialized in the fruit area, knows the difference between "nectarine " and "brugnon", although a part of French citizens does not know the difference. 

The situation is different for the downy peaches. In the distribution channels and in the supermarkets, the downy fruits are named "pêches" (peaches) independently of the stone's adherence to the flesh.

So, people do not know that the specialists, nurserymen, fruits connoisseurs and collectors use also two terms for the downy peaches. 

When the stone is free the downy fruit is called "pêche vraie" (true peach), and when the stone adheres to the flesh, the downy fruit is called "pavie" (the latter is an usual term for the scientists, collectors and botanical organizations members). 

We may note, even if it is not a discriminant criterion for the name, that the varieties belonging to the "pêche vraie" category have a soft flesh and those belonging to the "pavie" category have a firm flesh.

In the literature the words "pêche vulgaire" and "pêche proprement dite" may be found as synonyms for "pêche vraie". 

In the ancient literature the word "persèque" may be found as a synonym for "pavie" ("persèque" was used formerly in some French regions instead of "pavie").

But some authors made a distinction between "pavie" and "persèque" : among the downy peaches having the stone which adheres to the flesh, "pavie" was reserved for the white fleshed fruits and "persèque" was used for the yellow fleshed ones.

Nowadays, only the word "pavie" is used (for white fleshed and yellow fleshed varieties).

Beyond the four above mentioned categories ("nectarine", "brugnon", "pêche vraie", "pavie"), it exists specific French names for two groups of downy peach varieties.

The downy peach varieties which have a red flesh are called "pêche sanguine" (from the word "sang" which means blood...). A synonym for "pêche sanguine" is "pêche vineuse" (from the word "vin" which means wine...).

Some of (not all) the downy peach varieties which are autumn ripening are called "pêche de vigne" ("vigne" means "vine" ; they ripen at the same time that the grape and they were traditionally planted in the vineyards).

Generally the varieties called "pêche de vigne" also belong to the "pêche sanguine" type as they have a red flesh. This explains the brand name "Nectavigne" for the above mentioned red fleshed "nectarine" (French meaning). 

It nevertheless exists white fleshed and yellow fleshed varieties within the group "pêche de vigne".

It is important to understand that these two groups are not part of the same typology that the four categories "nectarine", "brugnon", "pêche vraie", "pavie". The latter are based on skin and stone characteristics while the two groups are based, for downy fruits, one on the flesh color and the other on the ripening season.

So, we can say that each of the categories "pêche vraie" and "pavie" includes some varieties which belong to the groups "pêche de vigne" and/or "pêche sanguine". And inversely, we can say that a variety of the group "pêche de vigne" or of the group "pêche sanguine" is belonging either to a "pêche vraie" or to a "pavie" category.

The flat Chinese peach varieties are simply called in France "pêche plate de Chine" (flat peach from China). They are also, but less usually, called "peento", which is one of the translations of the Chinese name into Latin characters.

The recent hybrids obtained between European "nectarines" (French meaning) and flat Chinese peaches ("peento") are also called "nectarine" in French. For instance the 'Mésembrine' flat cultivar is called "nectarine Mésembrine" in the nurseries catalogs and in the official literature.

To be (perhaps ?) complete, we add some informations about two ancient group names for peach varieties : "alberge" and "mirecoton". Nowadays they are obsolete for referring to a group of varieties but they still may be found in some old variety names.

"alberge" was also written "auberge".

"mirecoton" had numerous variants : "mirecotton", "mire-couton", "mirelicoton", "mirlicoton", "merlicoton", "milecoton", "millicoton", "melecoton", "belicoton" ...

The term "alberge" ("auberge") may be found in the ancient literature for naming peach varieties looking like an apricot, or said to be close to the apricot (with various flesh colours but all with a firm flesh and a stone sticking to the flesh). Note that "alberge" is also the name of a group of apricot varieties. In some cases, "alberge" was used for downy varieties having a yellow and firm flesh, without any reference to the apricot. "alberge" was also used as a synonym for "pavie".

The term "mirecoton" had different meanings. Depending on the author and the region, it was synonym of "pêche" (peach) or "brugnon". Some of its variants had the same meanings, others referred to varieties of "pavie" with yellow, white or red skin (not flesh).

We see that "alberge" and "mirecoton" were used with various senses, but we may remenber that they were generic names referring to groups of peach varieties.

Nowadays, it still exists some old varieties the names of which contain these terms.

We only know : 'Milecoton de la Toussaint' (in our personal collection) and 'Milacoton de Septembre', 'Alberge Rose', 'Alberge Vigne Blanche' (sold by French nurseries).

It also still exists a very old variety which is simply named 'Alberge' and another simply called 'Millecoton'. With a simple name we also know the variety 'Virecoton'. The three varieties being sold by French nurseries. 



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