A nectarine is a variant of a peach. The only real difference between a nectarine and peach is the fact a nectarine has no fuzz on the skin. The nectarine belongs to the rose family. It grows on a deciduous tree. The nectarine has smooth skin that is pinkish-orange or gold-yellow and an off-white or yellowish pulp. There is a large crease in the round nectarine. After cutting a nectarine open, you will find one large seed nestled in a bed of woody husk.
A ripe nectarine is juicy and sweet. It is delicious and nutritious too. Nectarines supply dietary fiber in addition to Vitamins A and C. You can eat nectarines and satisfy your sweet tooth without worrying about saturated fat or cholesterol.
Choosing the Best
A nectarine can be bruised easily on the outside and/or inside when it is ripe. The best nectarines will be firm but have some give when gently pressed with the whole hand. Hard nectarines are not ripe. The trick to buying good nectarines is to choose ones that are not green (unripe) but not over ripe either. You want them to last long enough at home for you to enjoy.
When buying nectarines, you should look for bruises, dents or cuts in the skin. Any spots that are sticky indicate the juice is escaping. The skin should be nicely colored and not wrinkled. Wrinkled or shriveled skin indicates an aging nectarine. You should also check to make sure the nectarine is not green around the stem area.
The nectarine should also have a pleasantly sweet odor.
If the nectarines you buy are not fully ripe you will need to:
- Set on the kitchen counter or table or place in a brown paper bag and let ripen
- Once ripe, store in the refrigerator in the crisper
You don’t want to wash them before storage because moisture can cause rot.
To freeze nectarines, do the following:
- Prepare an anti-darkening agent purchased at the store or mix 1 tablespoon of lemon juice with 1 quart of water in a mixing bowl
- Mix anti-darkening mixture with sugar water
- Wash nectarines under cold water
- Peel the nectarine
- Cut nectarines in half or slice into sections
- Discard seed
- Pour anti-darkening agent and sugar syrup into containers leaving room to add nectarines
- Add nectarines to container so that syrup covers the fruit
- Seal the container
You can also mix nectarines with plain sugar and an anti-darkening agent rather than in sugar syrup and then freeze. Nectarines can remain frozen for approximately 12 months.
Preparing and Cooking
Nectarines can be eaten raw with or without the skin. Wash the nectarine under cold water and pat dry before eating. Be careful biting into the nectarine so you don’t hit the hard pit with your teeth.
If you want to slice nectarines for recipes:
- Peel the nectarine
- Cut along the seam on the outside with a knife all the way to the pit
- Put one hand on top and one hand on the bottom and twist in the opposite directions until two halves separate
- Remove the pit
- Cut then halves of nectarine into sections
An easy way to peel nectarines is to drop them in boiling water for one minute. Remove the nectarines from the boiling water and immediately drop into cold water for another minute. Remove the nectarines from the water. The skins should come off easily.
Sliced nectarines are used in so many wonderful recipes. They can be added to fruit salads or eaten by themselves with whipped cream. Nectarines can be mashed and served over shortcake with whipped cream. Sliced nectarines are made into pies, cobblers, muffins and tarts. Nectarines also make a great topping for pork and chicken. Sliced nectarines go well with cereal or hot oatmeal too.
Nectarines are full of phytochemicals which can prevent cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. Nectarines are also loaded with vitamins and minerals including a high level of Vitamin A. Vitamin A is a beta carotene or an antioxidant needed by cells to fight against free radical damage. Vitamin C is important for maintaining a strong immune system.
Nectarines also have dietary fiber that aids with digestion.
One (1) medium nectarine has significant quantities of the following nutrients:
- Vitamin A – 471 I.U.
- Vitamin C – 7.7 mg
- Vitamin E – 1.1 mg
- Vitamin K – 3.1 mcg
- Dietary fiber – 2.4 g
- Folate – 7.1 mcg
- No cholesterol
- No saturated fat
- Calcium – 8.5 mg
- Phosphorous – 36.9 mg
- Potassium – 285 mg
- Magnesium – 12.8 mcg
- Omega-6 fatty acids – 158 mg
Try a juicy nectarine and find out how refreshing fruit can taste.