There may be nothing more pleasurable than standing over a sink and eating a perfectly ripe (and slobberingly juicy) nectarine, but they’re also terrific in salads, salsas, and both sweet and savory concoctions.
For many of us, perfection is a perfectly sweet, intoxicatingly fragrant, juice-oozing nectarine or peach. The nectarine, fuzz-free cousin of the peach, is surely one of Nature’s finest achievements with its smooth, luscious texture and fragrant succulence. August is peak nectarine season, and although stone fruits are now available almost year-round thanks to southern hemisphere production, nothing compares to the taste of a just-picked, tree-ripened nectarine.
The red blush colour on the skin is not an indication of ripeness but of the variety. Nectarines are a bit firmer than peaches when ripe. There will be a small amount of softness at the "seam". This fruit is fantastic grilled, and pairs nicely with grilled scallops, olive oil, lime and basil for a delicious BBQ treat. Nectarine is delicious added to crisps, pies, cobblers and muffins. Limited availability locally in August and September but generally available from other sources.
Handling & Storage:
- Look for nectarines with a fragrant perfume and firm, unblemished flesh that yields to slight pressure. Red skin color is not an indicator of ripeness; that’s determined by variety. Avoid specimens with dull, shriveled skins or fruit that’s either rock-hard or mushy.
- Like other stone fruits, nectarines don’t ripen any further or develop more sweetness once they’re picked, but they do soften at room temperature. Nectarines tinged with green were immature when they were picked; they won’t be as sweet as ripe fruit (or maybe they won’t be sweet at all).
- If your fruit is hard when purchased, you can hasten softening by placing nectarines in a loosely closed paper bag. Keep an eye on them; white nectarines ripen much faster and thus have a much shorter shelf life than yellow varieties.
- Ripe nectarines are best eaten right away, but they can be refrigerated for 1 to 3 days. Chilling diminishes their flavor, so bring the fruit to room temperature before eating it.
- Generally speaking, nectarines don’t need to be peeled because their skin is thin and smooth.
- For recipes where peeling is recommended, blanching works very well. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut a small, shallow cross at the base of each fruit and submerge a few nectarines at a time in the boiling water for 15 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon or tongs to a bowl of ice water and let the fruit cool briefly. The skins will then slip off easily without damaging the tender flesh.