NECTARINES, Facts & History
See also: Nectarine, Fruit of the Month - Trivia - Nectarine Quotes
A nectarine (Prunus persica variety nectarina) is a fuzzless variety of peach. It is NOT a cross between a peach and a plum. Fuzziness is a dominant trait of peaches. Occasionally when peach trees are crossed or even self pollinated they will produce some fruit whose seeds will grow into nectarine trees and others which will be peach trees. Nectarines will sometimes appear on peach trees, and peaches sometimes appear on nectarine trees! It is impossible to tell which seeds from nectarine trees will produce nectarine bearing trees, so commercial growers take branches which produce nectarines and graft them onto peach trees. The branches will continue to produce nectarines.
In appearance, nectarine trees are the same as peach trees, and are virtually indistinguishable from one another. Tree size and shape, leaves, and even buds look the same. Nectarines, however, are smaller and smooth skinned (looking more like plums), golden yellow with large blushes of red (ripe fruit looks the same as unripe - the color does not change significantly, but they do get sweeter and softer). Their yellow flesh has a noticeable pink tinge, with a distinct aroma and a more pronounced flavor. There are over 100 varieties of nectarine, both freestone and clingstone varieties, the same as for peaches. (Freestones flesh separates from the 'pit' easily, while clingstones cling to the 'pit'). Nectarines are more delicate than peaches, bruising very easily.
Nectarines, like peaches, probably originated in China over 2,000 years ago and were cultivated in ancient Persia, Greece and Rome. They were grown in Great Britain in the late 16th or early 17th centuries, and were introduced to America by the Spanish.
The word 'nectarine' means sweet as nectar, and this is very likely the obvious origin of the name.
Today, California grows over 95% of the nectarines produced in the United States.
Nectarines are cultivated the same as peaches, and are generally available from June to late September. The yield from trees is significantly reduced during the harvesting, handling and shipping because of their tender skin.
PURCHASING, HANDLING & STORAGE:
Look for: Ripe nectarines vary in color from greenish yellow to mostly reddish with yellow background. Do not choose the redder ones thinking they are more ripe. Ripe fruit are fragrant and give, slightly, to the touch. If they are a little under-ripe, leave them at room temperature for 2-3 days to ripen.
Avoid: Avoid fruit soft spots, wrinkled or punctured skin.
Storage: Nectarines will keep in the coldest part of your refrigerator for 5 days at most. Store in a plastic bag.
Nectarines can be eaten out of hand just like peaches, and can be used in any way you would peaches.
They are low in calories (and like most fruit - no sodium or cholesterol). They are a good source of vitamins A and C, beta-carotene and potassium.