For many of us, perfection is a perfectly sweet, intoxicatingly fragrant, juice-oozing nectarine or peach. The nectarine, fuzz-free cousin of the peach, is surely one of Nature’s finest achievements with its smooth, luscious texture and fragrant succulence. August is peak nectarine season, and although stone fruits are now available almost year-round thanks to southern hemisphere production, nothing compares to the taste of a just-picked, tree-ripened nectarine.
Nectarines are botanically classified as a sub-species of the peach, but they’re more accurately a genetic variation. Indeed, sometimes a tree will actually bear both peaches and nectarines at the same time.
There may be nothing more pleasurable than standing over a sink and eating a perfectly ripe (and slobberingly juicy) nectarine, but they’re also terrific in salads, salsas, and both sweet and savory concoctions.
Why choose organic nectarines?
- Both imported and domestic nectarines rank (#8 and #18, respectively) on the Environmental Working Group's “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides,” a list of produce that carries the most pesticide residues when grown conventionally. You can lower your dietary exposure to pesticides substantially by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables, and choosing organic for those items instead.
- At Earthbound Farm, we grow our organic nectarines without toxic synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, using sustainable farming methods that protect the environment and help keep pesticides out of our soil, air, water and food supply. Organic food is the healthiest choice for people and the planet — and we think organic nectarines taste better, too!
- WhatsOnMyFood.org from the Pesticide Action Network shows you searchable results for fruits like nectarines and a wide range of other organic and conventional foods. It’s an easy-to-use and empowering tool for learning about pesticide residues and their health effects for all of us.
How to select and store nectarines
- Look for nectarines with a fragrant perfume and firm, unblemished flesh that yields to slight pressure. Red skin color is not an indicator of ripeness; that’s determined by variety. Avoid specimens with dull, shriveled skins or fruit that’s either rock-hard or mushy.
- Like other stone fruits, nectarines don’t ripen any further or develop more sweetness once they’re picked, but they do soften at room temperature. Nectarines tinged with green were immature when they were picked; they won’t be as sweet as ripe fruit (or maybe they won’t be sweet at all).
- If your fruit is hard when purchased, you can hasten softening by placing nectarines in a loosely closed paper bag. Keep an eye on them; white nectarines ripen much faster and thus have a much shorter shelf life than yellow varieties.
- Ripe nectarines are best eaten right away, but they can be refrigerated for 1 to 3 days. Chilling diminishes their flavor, so bring the fruit to room temperature before eating it.
Tips for using nectarines
- Generally speaking, nectarines don’t need to be peeled because their skin is thin and smooth.
- For recipes where peeling is recommended, blanching works very well. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut a small, shallow cross at the base of each fruit and submerge a few nectarines at a time in the boiling water for 15 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon or tongs to a bowl of ice water and let the fruit cool briefly. The skins will then slip off easily without damaging the tender flesh.