Sweet, delicious nectarine is a closely related fruit species to peach. As in peach, it also can be described as a drupe (fruit flesh surrounded by central solitary, hard seed) belonging to the genus; Prunus; a large group of tree fruits which also includes plums, damson, almonds, etc. This novel fruit is appreciated worldwide for its juicy, fragrant aroma, and unique taste. It thought to have originated in China and from where spread to Central Asia and Persia to Europe through ancient silk route.
Nectarine is a medium sized deciduous tree with arching branches. It requires icy winter season followed by warm weather for proper development of buds. White or pinkish-white flowers appear in early spring which develops subsequently into beautiful fruits by June. The fruit looks same as that of peach. However, nectarine tends to be smaller and has smooth surface unlike fuzzy surface in case of peach. As in peach, it features vertical furrow that extends from the stem end up to its tip.
Internally, its flesh is juicy; and depending upon the variety, it can be creamy yellow or white in color with centrally placed single, hard seed (stone). The seed is inedible. Depending on the seed that is free or firmly attached to the surrounding flesh, nectarines can be classified into free-stone or clinging varieties.
Health benefits of Nectarine
Juicy, delicious nectarines are low in calories (100 g just provide 44 calories) and contain no saturated fats. They are indeed packed with numerous health promoting antioxidants, plant nutrients, minerals, and vitamins.
The total measured antioxidant strength (ORAC value) of 100 g raw nectarine fruit is 750 TE (Trolox equivalents).
Fresh nectarines carry small amounts of vitamin-C. 100 g provides 5.4 mg or about 9% of daily recommended levels. Vitamin-C has antioxidant effects and required for the connective tissue formation within the human body. Consumption of fruits rich in vitamin-C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents, and help scavenges harmful free radicals.
Nectarines have small but healthy concentrations of other anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-A, vitamin E and flavonoid polyphenolic antioxidants lutein, zeaxanthin and ß-cryptoxanthin. These compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various disease processes. Further, vitamin-A is also required for maintaining healthy mucosa and skin. Consumption of natural fruits rich in vitamin-A is known to offer protection from lung and oral cavity cancers.
The fruit is a healthy source of some of B-complex vitamins and minerals. It is good in niacin, pantothenic acid, thiamin, and pyridoxine. Also, it contains an appropriate ratio of minerals and electrolytes such as potassium, iron, zinc, copper and phosphorus. Iron required for red blood cell formation. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that help regulate heart rate and blood pressure.
Selection and Storage
Nectarine season lasts from mid-June until the end of September. In the fruit markets, one might come across several varieties of fresh nectarines. Look for well-ripen soft fruit with a smooth surface. Avoid hard, immature ones as they are harvested prematurely and hence, off flavored. Furthermore, avoid those with signs of surface blemishes, shriveled, cracks, and punctures.
As in pears, it is natural and an acceptable characteristic for peaches and nectarines too to have russet-brown speckled patches on their surface. Slightly hard but mature nectarines can be kept at room temperature until they ripen. Ripening process can be enhanced by using ethylene spray, and other similar procedures that employed while ripening bananas. Storage in a paper bag concentrates this gas and hastens the process.
Ripe nectarine perishes early and should be placed in the refrigerator but should be brought to room temperature before eating to enjoy their rich natural flavor.
Preparation and Serving tips
Juicy nectarines have delicious flavor and sweet creamy-yellow flesh. Choose only fresh ripe fruits to eat; immature ones are quite tart, and hence, off-flavored.
To prepare, gently wash them in cold water, mop dry using a soft cloth. The fruit can be consumed raw along with its skin as in apples. One can also cut the fruit into two halves and separate the pit (seed) using a knife.
To peel, use the same technique as in peaches. Score a small cross at the base. Dip in boiling water just for a minute and immediately immerse in cold water to cool quickly. Then peel the skin away from the cross.
Here are some serving tips:
Nectarine generally relished as it is, without any seasonings/additions.
Prepare a mouth-watering Frech toast with nectarine compote.
Its slices can be added to fruit salads and desserts.
The fruit can be used to make jams, jelly, and mixed fruit desserts.
It can also be used in preparing pie, crumble, soup, tart, cheesecake, etc.
Allergic reactions to nectarine are rare. It is well tolerated by children as well as in pregnant women.