: from the English nectarine, a now-obsolete word meaning “sweet as nectar.”
Type of peach with a thin smooth skin and firm flesh.
Though the nectarine’s origins are mysterious (some think they were grown in Persia, as well as Greece and Rome), it’s believed to have got its start in China as a genetic variant of the common peach and is not, as some believe, the consequence of a cross between a peach and a plum. One Chinese emperor was so enthralled with nectarines that he and his people referred to them as the "nectar of the gods.”
In 1630, at least 6 varieties were being grown in England. The Spanish introduced them into the United States, where they were first mentioned in 1720, growing among the peach trees of Virginia. By 1857, A. J. Downing registered 19 different nectarine races in America.
The nectarine is a slightly smaller, smooth skinned species of peach with juice that is mildly spicy and rich in flavor. There are many different varieties of nectarines grown today, but they are most often sold not by variety but by the color of their flesh, either white or yellow. A white nectarine has a flavor similar to the yellow variety, but is slightly sweeter and more delicate tasting, due to the lower acid to sugar ratio. The flesh is white and juicy.
If you're buying fruit to eat the same day, it's best to look for a nectarine that is soft and that responds to gentle palm pressure, with a sweet aroma.
The best indicator of high-quality fruit is color. When buying nectarines, look for deep yellow background color, or creamy white for Summerwhite® (white flesh) varieties. The amount of red color varies by variety and is not an indication of ripeness or quality.
It's easy to ripen firm nectarines. Just place the fruit in a paper bag, fold the top over loosely, and keep at room temperature for 1-3 days or place in a fruit bowl. Then check the fruit daily. Tip: never use a plastic bag; it may cause decay and can produce off-flavors.
Once the fruit is soft, or ripe, it can be stored in the refrigerator for a week or more.
Tip: never place firm, or unripe, fruit in the refrigerator as it may inhibit the ripening process and can cause the fruit to become dry, mealy and flavorless.
Nectarines do not need to be peeled before being eaten.
To pit a nectarine, cut it in half down to the pit with a small sharp knife, then hold both halves and twist slightly to separate them. Remove the pit from the half it is in. It may be necessary to use a small knife to pry the pit out.
Preparing and cooking nectarine are the same than with peach. Learn more...
Calories: 70; carbohydrates: 16 g; fat: 1 g; protein: 1 g. fiber: 3 g.
A good source of vitamins A and C.
- In a milkshake with a little nutmeg and honey or maple syrup.
- Ice pops for children: purée the fruit in a blender, add some lemonade, sweeten to taste, pour into molds and freeze.
- Poach in syrup. For a variation, infuse some fresh ginger in the syrup.
- Use in cocktails or sangria. Liquefy the fruit in a blender with some cold white wine and serve with fresh lemon balm leaves.
Sauté nectarines in butter with a little black pepper and flambé with brandy. Serve with whipped cream and a red berry coulis.
Nectarines are divine in a mesclun salad served with a grilled chicken breast.
Serve fresh as a first course with prosciutto or Bayonne ham. If desired, add a few chopped walnuts and some fresh white cheese and serve on a bed of watercress, drizzled with a traditional vinaigrette (olive oil, aged wine vinegar and Dijon mustard). Or serve with asparagus and a hazelnut oil and basil dressing.
Photo: with the kind assistance of California Tree Fruit Agreement (CTFA)
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