Nectarines have a smooth, fuzz-free skin, coloured yellow and red, either freestone or clingstone according to the ease with which the furrowed central stone separates from their yellow or white flesh. Yielding, juicy and richly flavoured when tree-ripened, they are eaten fresh, out of hand, poached or baked.
The nectarine is thought to have originated as a mutant of the peach. Its name is derived from the Greek nektar, meaning “sweet liquid.” Peaches and nectarines are genetically very similar but peaches have fuzz and nectarines are smooth. Many nectarine varieties have a spicy “zing” to their taste.
White-fleshed nectarines are savoured by connoisseurs for their sweet, luscious flavour, tantalizing fragrance, and novel colour. White-fleshed fruits have been cultivated for hundreds of years and have occurred in nature for thousands. Records of white-fleshed nectarine varieties can be traced to the late 1700's.
- Nectarines ripen as the weather warms, so they are in season in the spring and summer, depending on the local climate. Because they are easy to grow both above and below the equator, they are available nearly year-round.
- Nectarines with a crimson blush indicates variety, not maturity. Look for smooth, unblemished skin, creamy yellow background color, plumpness, and slight softening along the seam. Ripe nectarines give to gentle pressure.
- Avoid hard, dull fruits, shriveled fruits, or soft fruits. Avoid fruits with cracked or punctured skin or other signs of decay. Russeting or staining of the skin may affect appearance but generally does not detract from internal quality.
- White nectarines ripen much quicker than yellow varieties. If placed in a paper bag, they will ripen in about a day. They should be checked often. Once ripe, store in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 days.
- How to soften
- To quicken the softening of the fruit, place in a pierced paper bag with an apple or banana; the ethylene gas given off by these fruits speeds up the softening process.
To cut (prior to or after peeling), slice around the seam, twist, and lift or cut out the pit.
To prevent browning, squeeze fresh lemon juice over cut surfaces.
Peel, if desired, by dipping whole fruits in boiling water for 10 seconds; remove with a slotted spoon and slip off the skins.
The best flavour and nutritional benefits are derived from enjoying nectarines fresh and simply sliced.
But they are also incredibly versatile and can be cooked, canned, dried, puréed, boiled, roasted, and made into jam.
They also make a great accompaniment to a variety of savoury dishes including duck, goose or lamb.
Health and nutrition
- One nectarine counts as one part of your 5-a-day and they are also:
High in fibre
A good source of Vitamin C (31mg per 100g), Vitamin A
Low in fat, calories, cholesterol and sodium
High in carotene and potassium
South African Varieties
South African nectarines are mainly grown in the Western Cape. The sheltered valleys between mountains are ideal for the cultivation of fruit such as plums, peaches, nectarines, apples and pears.
- Bella Rosa is one of the first late, firm melting nectarine varieties released by the ARC in South Africa. It is particularly bruise resistant and ripens from end January in South Africa.
- Fantasia originated in the USA and was released in South Africa in 1969. It is harvested around the middle of January. The fruit is slightly oval to round in shape, and the colour is about 75% light red on a yellow background. The flesh colour is bright yellow and the texture firm, coarse and melting with a free stone, and has a good taste.
- Flamekist originated in the USA as a seedling of self-pollinated Golden King, and was released in South Africa in 1968. Flamekist is harvested in mid February. The fruit is round and the skin has a red blush on a green-yellow background. The flesh is yellow in colour with red around the stone cavity, and it has a cling stone. The taste is good and the texture is slightly stringy but firm and melting.
- Mayglo originated in the USA from a cross between a Fayette peach and a May Grand nectarine. Mayglo was released in South Africa in 1987, and is harvested early in November. The fruit tends to be slightly small and somewhat oval in shape. The skin colour is bright red and the flesh is light yellow in colour with a cling stone. The taste is good, slightly acid and the texture is fine, firm and melting.
- Olympia was bred in the USA and released in South Africa in 1985, and is harvested in the middle of December. Olympia's shape is round to oblong and slightly pointed, and the skin colour is red with some yellow, and the flesh is yellow with red in the stone cavity. The stone is free, the taste is good and the texture is melting and fine.
- Sunlight originated in the USA and was released in South Africa in 1974. It is harvested in late November, and is a round nectarine, dark red in colour with many lenticels. The flesh colour is yellow and the stone is free. The taste is good, but slightly acid and the texture medium-fine and melting.
Sub-Category: Stone Fruit
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