Nectarines 101

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If you find peaches to be an irresistible summer snack, you’ll love their smooth-skinned cousin, the nectarine. So similar, they sometimes grow on the same tree! Eaten out of hand, sliced atop oatmeal, blended into a smoothie, grilled with cheese and honey, or even cooked in a cobbler, the sweet, juicy nectarine has broad versatility. And because it’s packed with powerful antioxidants, this is one summer treat both your taste buds and your body will thank you for!

Identification

Nectarines are typically located near peaches in the produce section. Though they’re from the same family as the peach, nectarines are slightly smaller, and have a smooth (not fuzzy) skin. They’re also much more aromatic than peaches.

A nectarine is about the size of a tennis ball, and the most common varieties found at the grocery are usually deep red with orange-gold highlights.

Taste

As sweet as a peach can be, nectarines are even sweeter, with the same rosy overtones.

White-fleshed nectarines, commonly the Zephyr or Redgold varieties, are sweeter than the more common yellow-fleshed fruit, such as the Sunglo and Fantasia, which are slightly acidic and tangy.

Availability

Nectarines are readily available in supermarkets most of the year. More varieties can be found at farmers’ markets from late spring to early fall.

Season

Nectarines are readily available in supermarkets most of the year. More varieties can be found at farmers’ markets from late spring to early fall.

Selection

Nectarines with an orange-gold hue boast maximum sweetness. Opt for nectarines that are firm and heavy for their size (the heavier the fruit, the juicier the fruit).

Avoid fruit with green around the stem: this indicates a lack of ripeness. Also note, bruising or mushy spots indicate overripeness.

Organic Benefits

When deciding whether to purchase organic or non-organic produce, it’s helpful to know which fruits and vegetables are most affected by pesticides. Pesticides are toxins used to kill insects, invasive plants, and fungi during the growth of produce, and are potentially dangerous to people. National and international agencies agree that prolonged exposure to specific pesticides through food consumption is a potential health risk. Additionally, some studies indicate that organic fruits and vegetables have a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals than conventionally raised produce.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an environmental health advocacy and research organization in the United States. From cosmetics to produce, water to cleaning products, EWG provides insight regarding the impact of pesticides, manufacturing practices, and product ingredients on our health and environment. EWG produces a consumer guide ranking 48 fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue. The higher the rank, the lower the residue. In this ranking, the 12 most affected fruits and vegetables belong to the “Dirty Dozen,” and the 15 least affected are part of the “Clean Fifteen.” These lists help identify the produce that is most—and least—dramatically affected by pesticides.

Nectarines rank at #18, which places them on the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen Plus” produce list. Select organic nectarines to minimize exposure to pesticides.

However, the Environmental Working Group and Yoffie Life stress that consuming conventionally grown vegetables and fruits when the organic version is unavailable or financially impossible is far better than eating none at all.

Storage

Nectarines from the grocery store are usually underripe. Place them in a paper bag for a day or two to promote ripening. Then keep them on the counter and use within three days.

Ripe nectarines keep in the refrigerator for three to five days. Refrain from refrigerating unripe nectarines because it negatively affects their flavor and texture, making them bland and mealy.

Preparation

Wash nectarines well under cool running water and lightly scrub them with a vegetable brush.

There are three types of nectarines: freestone, semi-freestone, and clingstone. Freestone fruit slips away from the stone (pit) in the middle; semi-freestone fruit can be more easily cut away from the stone; and clingstone fruit is more fibrous and takes a little more slicing to remove the pit completely from the flesh. Nectarines are mostly eaten out of hand, so regardless of the type, the pit is easy to eat around.

Nectarine skin is thin, so peeling is usually unnecessary. Sprinkle sliced nectarines with lemon juice to prevent discoloration if it’s going into a salad or not eaten right away.

Keep in mind, it takes a few extra minutes of cooking, grilling, or baking to soften the skin of nectarines.

Nutrition Summary

Vitamin C

This immune-system-building vitamin offers a host of benefits. Vitamin C is an important nutrient necessary for collagen production, and is essential for maintaining the integrity and function of skin and bone tissue. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant, fighting free radicals and protecting the heart, kidneys, and lungs from disease. This essential nutrient, often found in large amounts in citrus fruits and raw vegetables, may play a role in reducing systolic blood pressure and heart disease risk.

Vitamin A

A fat-soluble nutrient, vitamin A is involved in the development of rhodopsin, a molecule in the eye that promotes healthy vision. Vitamin A is also responsible for promoting the immune system, cell growth, skin health, and the formation of the heart and lungs as well as other bodily organs.

Potassium

Alongside sodium and chloride, potassium is an electrolyte essential for conducting electrical reactions in the body. Potassium aids proper muscle function, digestive health, and skeletal contractions.

B3 (Niacin)

Another energy-producing vitamin, niacin is responsible for transporting energy and metabolizing glucose within the cell. This vitamin may be helpful for regulating blood sugar after a carbohydrate-heavy meal.

Copper

A mineral that plays a role in producing collagen and keeping the immune system in proper working order, copper is an essential nutrient needed by the body in small amounts. Copper may also fight against free radicals, helping to delay the aging process. Energy production is also one of the many benefits of this important mineral.

Health Benefits & Medical Claims

Nectarines are packed with antioxidants. An antioxidant is a substance that prevents the oxidation of cells in the body. While we typically think of oxygen as a good thing, sometimes when cells are oxidized, they produce free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that are always looking for additional electrons to make them more stable. They often attach to the electron of another cell and cause new free radicals to form. Over time, free radicals damage the cells in the body and can even alter our DNA. Excessive free radicals contribute to the aging process and may also contribute to cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Antioxidants help by stabilizing free radicals, thus reducing their potential to cause damage.

Little Known Facts
  1. Nectarines are identical to peaches except they don’t have the gene that creates a fuzzy peel. Nectarines and peaches sometimes grow on the same tree.
  2. Nectarines are native to China, but were introduced to America by Spanish explorers.
  3. There are more than 100 varieties of nectarines.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Yoffie Life disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.