Nectarines are the smooth, firm, sweet cousins of the peach and they are in season all summer long, from the end of April to the end of August.
Many people prefer the smooth-skinned nectarine to the peach, but there really is very little difference between the two stone fruits, In fact, the nectarine (Prunus persica var), is a type of peach, which developed in China about 2000 years ago due to a natural mutation. There is only a difference of one gene between peaches nectarines and they vary from each other in small amounts.
What’s the difference between a peach and a nectarine?
The peach prunus persica differs from the nectarine, only in that it has an extra gene that makes the skin fuzzy. The lack of fuzziness on the nectarine prunus persica means it has a brighter appearance. It usually has a firmer white flesh and can taste slightly sweeter. Because of this they bruise less easily than the peach and may last slightly longer for fruit ripening, meaning they have a longer shelf life.
What are the health benefits of nectarines?
Nectarines are a perfect summer snack as they contain 85% water and are good for hydration. There are 43 calories per 100g of nectarine, 10g of carbohydrate (all of which is sugar), 1g of protein and 1g of fibre. There is virtually no fat in a nectarine.
Nectarines have a good vitamin and mineral profile and are high in beta-carotene, which the body converts into Vitamin A that can play a role in a healthy immune system and is good for skin and eyes. Nectarines contain folate, which we need for healthy red blood cell formation, and lots of antioxidants.
Can you eat the stone or pit of a nectarine?
The stone or the pit of nectarine and most stone fruits contains cyanide compounds, which are poisonous. However, it would probably take a great amount to make you sick. The pits of the apricot, nectarine, peach and plum all contain a kernel, which has a distinctive almond like flavour. The flavour is not of sweet almond, but of a rounder, nuttier type. In Italy, amaretti is flavoured with apricot pits, and in France creme de noyaux liqueur is flavoured with them. The outside can be cracked with a nutcracker and ground with a mortar and pestle. The resulting powder can be used to flavour ice-cream, panna cotta and liqueurs.
Cooking with nectarines
A nectarine will act as a substitute in any recipe that calls for peaches. The nectarine is a wonderful summer fruit that needs to be enjoyed as much as possible when in season. They are bountiful in the summer months and very cheap to buy, so it is always worth stocking up on homemade apricot or nectarine preserve to see you through the winter months.
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