Imagine, if you will, gummy bears that grow naturally on the bark of trees, as delicious as they are effective at plumping and clearing your skin. It sounds too fantastical to be real, but one health food with almost mythological beautifying properties from China is finally beginning to appear in foods and beauty products here on U.S. shores. Here’s what you need to know about peach gum.
For starters, peach gum goes by quite a few names, including peach resin, peach blossom tears, or its scientific name, prunus persica. No matter what you call it, peach gum is just one among dozens of organic products that we classify as natural gums. Other natural gums include guar gum (from guar trees), locust bean gum (from carob trees), gum arabic (from acacia trees), and plum gum (from, you guessed it, plum trees). Though gums may sound exotic, you’ve likely encountered them countless times as a child, in the form of sticky tree sap.
Perhaps the best known, or at least the most widely used, of all natural gums is agar, which is harvested from seaweed for use in everything from laxatives to gelatin substitutes. Natural gums frequently appear in foods as thickening agents and binders, holding foods together. In this respect, peach gum is an exception to the rule.
Peach gum, when left to accrue on the bark of the peach tree as it does naturally, eventually hardens into a gummy crystalline form that looks like a cross between ginger candy and gummy peach rings. Its form betrays its beneficial properties, and hints at its efficacy as a medicinal, beauty and health food product. Peach gum, you see, is rich in collagen, galactose, rhamnose and amino acids. Collagen in particular may ring a bell, as it is frequently mentioned in skincare and beauty commercials, lauded as a source of skin suppleness. In actuality, collagen does far more than just make our skin look youthful and taut. It’s a triple-helix protein that makes up a good deal of our body mass, in the form of tendons, bones, muscles and, yes, skin. Collagen is present in our corneas and the space between each vertebrae alike. It’s a critical part of the human body, so interest in how to replenish and preserve it is hardly surprising.
Consuming collagen-rich foods is believed by many to improve skin elasticity and diminish the signs of aging, like wrinkles and dry, crepe-like skin. But it should be said that not everyone agrees with this assessment, and some doctors argue that consistent, proper water consumption will do far more for your skin than any food, rich in collagen or not, ever could. Still, with U.S. food manufacturers and importers increasingly looking to the East to determine the next big beauty and health trends, peach gum was bound to fetch someone’s attention.
So how does it taste? Delicious, by all accounts. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that this peach hued, natural gel-gemstone hybrid tastes an awful lot like peach gummies or jelly. Peach gum is sweet, but not overly saccharine, rich, but not heavy. But the taste tends to play second fiddle to the complex texture of peach gum. Both soft and dense, it’s said to be unlike anything else in the world.
After bits of peach gum resin have been cleaned under running water, and then left to soak for some time, they can be incorporated into some surprisingly versatile dishes. Braised pork belly is topped with peach gum in one classic Chinese recipe in the Zheijang province, and it appears frequently as a last-minute addition to stir fried vegetables, tofu and meat as well. But the most famous dish to employ the dish is peach gum soup, a delicate, clear broth that can be prepared savory (with mushrooms) or as a sweet dessert (with poached papaya or pears).
So where can you get some peach resin to begin experimenting with it in the kitchen yourself? Like so many other dried and preserved foods, the internet is your friend here. A one pound bag of peach gum costs between $20 and $30 across most online outlets I perused through, with plenty of manufacturers selling the food on Amazon. If $30 for a pound of what essentially amounts to a bag of candy sounds a little steep to you, here’s a bit of good news at least: when properly cleaned and steeped in water, each individual “gemstone” will swell 80 to 100% in size, meaning a single bag will go a long, long way.