The name nectarine most likely comes from the Greek nektar, the drink of choice for most of the Greek gods. It is believed that the nectarine goes back over 3,000 years to China and possibly Egypt. Nectarines made their way from the Middle East to Europe, including Spain. Spanish missionaries brought nectarines to California.
Botanically, the nectarine is classified as a variety of peach. Though rare, it is possible to find nectarines and peaches growing on the same tree. In fact, it is believed that nectarines originated as a so-called “sport” of peaches. In essence, nectarines are just fuzzless peaches.
Like peaches, nectarines are drupes (or stone fruits) that belong to the rose family. Judging from historical references, early nectarine varieties were small and white-fleshed, with skins that could be green, red, or yellow. Modern crossbreeding techniques—in which nectarine varieties are crossbred with one another as well as with peaches—have yielded larger nectarines with gold or red skin and yellow or white flesh.
Types of Nectarines
There are more than 150 nectarine varieties that differ somewhat in size, shape, taste, texture, and skin color, which ranges from golden yellow with a red blush to almost entirely red.
Nectarines are low in calories and have moderate amounts of fiber, including pectin, which may help lower cholesterol. Yellow nectarines are a source of beta carotene. All varieties contain vitamin E. Although the amount of vitamin E in a single nectarine is only about 7 percent of the RDA, it is worth noting, because it’s relatively rare to find this vitamin in a low-fat food.
For a full listing of nutrients, see Nectarines in the National Nutrient Database.
How to Choose the Best Nectarines
Here's what to look for at the market, plus how to keep and freeze nectarines.
How to prepare nectarines
Since the flesh of a fresh nectarine darkens when exposed to air, don’t slice it until you are ready to use the fruit. You can preserve its color temporarily by dipping the slices in a cup of lemon water, or by simply tossing them with lemon juice.
8 Ways to Serve Nectarines
Nectarines are among those rare treats: sweet and low in calories. Here are some delicious serving suggestions.
Published July 20, 2015