Peaches and nectarines were grown in Asia for centuries, before their introduction to the West made them popular exports. Early botanists noticed that nectarines sometimes grew on a peach tree and vice versa, finding that only one significant thing separates the two: a peach has fuzzy skin, while a nectarine’s is smooth (caused by a recessive gene). They both have the same rich flavour and they can be used interchangeably in a wide variety of recipes. There are some small differences to take note of, however:
Peaches are usually larger, softer and juicier than nectarines, containing a rounder pit. The two main varieties of peaches are clingstone (the flesh sticks to the stone) and freestone (the stone is easily separated from the flesh). They can have yellow or white flesh, which is sweeter and less acidic than its golden counterpart. A large peach has less than 70 calories and has 3 grams of fibre, and is also a good source of vitamins A and C.
1. To ripen overly firm peaches, will ripen when placed in a brown paper bag for two to three days.
2. Toss sliced peaches with lemon or lime juice to prevent browning.
Nectarines are smaller than peaches but are sweeter than peaches, hence its name, which comes from nectar (sweet). The skin of a nectarine is smooth and glossy, often a much deeper red than a peach, but the flesh is similar, either yellow or white. They have more vitamin C, potassium and twice the amount of vitamin A than a peach. If a nectarine is too hard, allow it to ripen at room temperature for a few days.
Tip: Avoid hard, dull-looking nectarines. This is often a sign that they’re underdeveloped (from being picked too early).