“A nectarine… is half plum, half peach… a fine fruit… even rotten; I’d eat a rotten nectarine over a fine plum any day”Mel Brooks as the 2000 year old man
Contrary to popular belief, the nectarine is not a hybrid of a peach and a plum but it is indeed a fine fruit. Genetically derived from the same species as the peach, prunus persica, the only difference in a nectarine is a mutation that does not produce fuzz. Technically, you could have a peach and nectarine on the same tree. Every once in a while we’ll find a smooth peach on a peach tree, although I’ve never seen a fuzzy nectarine on a nectarine tree. The nectarine’s smooth skin while more palatable, unfortunately makes it more susceptible to brown rot and mildew.
Other than the genetic difference there are differences in flavor and texture as well. Nectarines are generally meatier in texture and tarter in flavor. They have a denser, creamy orange flesh, less yellow than that of a peach. Nutritionally, you get more bang for your buck as they have more Vitamin C, twice the Vitamin A and more potassium than their fuzzy cousin. Both have significant fiber content.
While the peach is soft, mild, plump and juicy, the nectarine is intense, buff and at times, downright fierce. Even with these differences in temperament they can still be used interchangeably in recipes and would only need a light modification in the amount if sugar or acid used. Nectarines don’t need to be peeled; peaches don’t either really! The level of fuzziness varies from variety to variety but some don’t like it. (I don’t generally peel peaches but the Suncrest for instance; I almost always do, or at least give them a healthy wipe down with a damp cloth.)
I have always maintained and a lot of people don’t like to hear this, that the best piece of fruit we grow is the Ruby Grand Nectarine. As much as I love the Cal Red, the Suncrest and the Gold Dust peaches, nothing beats a deep gold, thick skinned, and meaty, Ruby Grand. And the Fantasia is no slouch either! After all, the Fantasia Nectarine is what brought me to my husband Farmer Al (via Bill Fujimoto of Monterey Market). And the white nectarines? Forget about it! A cold Emeraude or White Rose nectarine on a hot summer day is pure heaven and beats a white peach anytime, even in a Bellini.
Still the peach is the “peach” of stone fruits, out-selling nectarines by 100% and they have all the glory. Did anyone ever call you a “nectarine” when you’ve done something nice for them? Think about it!