If summer were a fruit, what would it be? Watermelon? Strawberries? Hmmm … maybe. In our humble opinion though, nothing tastes like summer more than the chin-dripping sweetness of a perfectly ripe peach. Don’t they basically look like little suns? And their nectar? Pure manna. The renowned peaches of Yakima County are rightfully catching our attention at the local farmer’s market these days, but they’re not the only stone fruit that’s the apple of our eye.
This time of year, peaches, pluots, apricots and apriums also shine. Perhaps you’ve seen a bounty of these orange, green, purple and red-skinned fruits at your farmer’s market as well? And maybe, like us, you’ve wondered, what exactly is the difference between a nectarines and a peaches.
Aside from their outer skin, there really isn’t a difference between nectarines and peaches. Some people say nectarines are juicier, but we haven’t found that to be consistently true in our research. The genetics are nearly identical between the two aside from a recessive gene in nectarines that gives them their smooth skin versus peaches’ fuzzy skin. Use them interchangeably in recipes, and at the market opt for whichever is the most fragrant and firm (not hard or too soft) to the touch.
We trust you’re familiar with the magical peach. If not, get thee to thy nearest market and please remedy immediately. There’s a reason this fruit so inspired Picasso.
Peaches come in two varieties – clingstone or freestone. As the name implies, clingstone fruit “clings” to the pit while freestone falls away easily. It’s not easy to tell which is which, unless you ask. As a general rule, clingstone fruit usually arrives first to the farmer’s market followed by freestone. The flavor is basically identical, but this will impact how you pit them.
Selection: Choose firm fruit (not too hard or too soft) that is fragrant at the stem. Look for fruit with smooth, unblemished skin.
Ripening: Stone fruits are best ripened at room temperature with their stem-end down. Do not refrigerate fruit before it’s ripe as it will dry the fruit out and can result in a mealy texture.
Storage: Store at room temp until ripe. Can be stored in the fridge for 1-2 days (though not ideal).