What do you get when you cross a peach with a plum? We’re not sure, but it’s definitely not a nectarine.
Contrary to the popular peach-plum myth, nectarines are actually smooth-skinned, fuzzless peaches. Sometimes nectarines can even grow on peach trees as naturally-mutated growths, called bud sports.
Nectarines, like their peach brethren, are yellow or white skinned and can have cling-stones or free-stones. Cling-stones are available earlier in the season, free-stones later. Nectarines should be sweet and juicy. Lyman Orchards, one of our nectarine growers, suggests choosing nectarines with a creamy or golden color, fragrant, with a firm but not hard texture. Being peaches themselves, nectarines can be used in any recipe where you’d normally use a peach.
Once picked, nectarines will become softer and juicier, but they won’t get any sweeter. Let your nose tell you if the fruit is sweet enough – you can tell by the fragrance. Pick nectarines slightly firmer than you’d like if you won’t be eating them immediately.
Fully ripe nectarines can be stored in the refrigerator for several days. Let them come to room temperature before eating for the best taste. Until nectarines are ripe, store them at room temperature, avoiding any extreme heat. Nectarines hold up well to freezing and canning too.