Nectarines, contrary to popular belief, are not a cross between peaches and plums. It is a fuzzless variety (or mutation, another way of looking at it) of peaches. They are so closely related that a peach tree will sometimes produce nectarines, and a nectarine tree will sometimes produce peaches. In fact, the trees for nectarines and peaches are virtually indistinguishable from one another. Even nectarine seeds can grow into peach trees. The only way to ensure a nectarine crop from a new tree is to graft existing nectarine branches into young nectarine/peach trees.
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Order: Rosales
- Family: Rosaceae
- Genus: Prunus
- Species: P. persica var. nucipersica
- Binomial name: Prunus persica var. nucipersica
- Nectarines have been said to have been first cultivated in China over 4,000 years ago.
- Nectarine means “Sweet as Nectar.”
- Nectarines are often called “Shaved Peaches.”
- The heaviest nectarine on record was around 500g or over a pound in weight. This was grown in Cyprus last 2018
Nectarine Buying Guide
When buying nectarines, look for plump and juicy ones with smooth skin. Avoid nectarines that have blemishes, rough skin, or are soft/squishy to the touch. Also, avoid greenish nectarines and those that are still too firm to the touch. While nectarines ripen after they are picked, there is a small chance that they will not ripen properly.
If you’re not going to consume the nectarines immediately, pick ripe ones that are still firm to the touch, they will ripen in a couple of days.
Some farms offer “pick your own” nectarines, and these farms are usually selling organic nectarines straight off the trees. If you happen to be in the area of one of these operations, be sure to check them out to get the freshest and tastiest nectarines.
Tip: Nectarines taste best when eaten straight after picking!
Nectarine Production & Farming in Texas
While peaches are being produced regularly in Texas, nectarines have a little bit of trouble due to their smooth skin being vulnerable to wind scarring and brown rot. Nectarine culture is basically the same a peach production, but only on a more challenging scale because of its non-fuzzy skin.
The three types of nectarines that are suggested (and have been successfully grown) for Texas are the following:
- Artic Star White – This nectarine variant has a deep red skin and has only 300 chilling hours as a requirement, making it a variety that can be planted in a lot of Texas areas.
- Panamint – This variant is a medium to large nectarine strain that is highly resistant to bacterial spot. This also only requires 300 chilling hours for it to produce fruit properly.
- Sunraycer – This variant is from Australia, producing large fruit that has excellent resistance to bacterial spot. The chilling hours required for this variant is even lower at only 275 hours.
The Texas Agricultural Extension Service is currently researching and testing new variants of nectarines for future production.
Due to its smooth skin and lack of natural protection, nectarines have been found to contain up to 33 pesticide residues that are suspected carcinogens, suspected neurotoxins, and developmental neurotoxins.
Several independent growers in Texas are taking a risk with the less-hardy nectarine plant that is still growing them organic. If you’re in the mood for a sweet treat, then check out your local market or farmers’ market before buying nectarines from the big-name supermarkets.
Growing nectarines is precisely like growing peaches. The only difference is that the fruits are less-hardy and may be a lot more intensive work required to keep the plants healthy.
Nectarines grow well in USDA Hardiness Zones 6-8.
Site selection is critical when planting nectarines. The first step is to choose a site that is wind-sheltered so that dominant winds don’t sweep through and damage the tree and the fruits.
Nectarines thrive in well-drained soil with a pH level of 6.0-6.5.
After nectarines are picked, they are immediately washed in a cleaning solution that removes dirt and other surface contaminants from the fruits.
After the washing, the nectarines are hand sorted by quality, and any that don’t meet customer standards or those fruits with defects are separated from the batch.
The nectarines are then packed to customer specifications and are usually shipped out to stores on the same day.
Even though the nectarine skin is edible, it is still advised to peel them off before consuming (unless you’re buying organic, then the skin is perfectly safe to eat).
To easily peel a nectarine, blanch the nectarine for about a minute in boiling water then immediately transfer to iced water. This will make the skin much easier to remove.
Consume the peeled nectarine immediately. If you’re not going to consume immediately, sprinkle with a little bit of lemon or lime juice to avoid discoloration from oxidation.
If you have purchased unripe nectarines, store them in a paper bag at room temperature to speed up the ripening process. Do not store unripe nectarines in the fridge.
Ripe nectarines can be stored in the fridge for two to three days.
Storage of nectarines can further be extended by freezing, dehydrating, or canning them in a light syrup.
Nectarines can be used interchangeably with peaches. They are often enjoyed fresh, with cream, and sugared. They can also be used as a garnish for a variety of hot and cold dish preparations. Nectarines are also perfect in fruit and green salads. Nectarines also make delicious pie fillings on their own or with other fruits.
Nectarines, twins with Peaches, but not identical.
- Nectarines are relatively low in carbohydrates, making them an excellent fruit to add to low-carb diets.
- Despite their seemingly high sugar content, nectarines have a modest glycemic index of 43, which places it on the low glycemic index classification.
- Nectarines are not a significant source of dietary fiber, but they can still help in cleaning up and maintaining gut health and balance.
- Vitamins and minerals:
- Compared to their sibling, the peach, nectarines have more plant-based polyphenols, which can help with digestion issues, neurodegenerative diseases, and cardiovascular diseases.
- Polyphenols also have been shown to help reduce the proliferation of certain types of cancer cells.
- Nectarines are also a decent source of Vitamins A, C, B3, Potassium, and Copper. All of these vitamins and minerals have proven health benefits.
When Are Nectarines in Season in Texas?
To find out when Nectarines are in season in Texas, please check the seasonal chart below. Why is this important? We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas now.