What's the Difference Between Peaches and Nectarines?
Ripe, juicy peaches and nectarines are as iconic to summer as beach towels and campfires. These two stone fruits look and taste similar, so what's the difference? Can you use them interchangeably for cobblers, pies, crumbles, and preserves?
What's the Fuzz?
When sitting side by side, peaches and nectarines tend to be of comparable size, with the same mottled, blushing red-orange-yellow hues, but of course it's easy to tell the difference between the two fruits thanks to a peach's distinctive fuzz, compared to the nectarine's squeaky-clean bald dome.
The Family Tree
It's a common misconception that a nectarine is a cross between a peach and a plum. Not true! In fact, peaches and nectarines are genetically almost identical, with just one gene that's either dominant (in peaches) or recessive (in nectarines) that determines whether the skin is fuzzy or smooth.
Freestone Versus Clingstone; Yellow Versus White
Peaches and nectarines both come in a few different varieties: they can be freestone (meaning the pit falls easily away from the flesh) or clingstone (meaning-you guessed it-that the pit clings tightly to the fruit). Both fruits also come in yellow and white varieties. White peaches and nectarines are less acidic and therefore taste sweeter.
Pick of the Crop
Nectarines do tend to be smaller and firmer than peaches, but the taste is so similar, you really can substitute one for the other in any recipe. What's more important is to select the fruit that's the ripest and most fragrant. Depending on the market and the point in the growing season, the peaches may be looking better one week and the nectarines are having a moment the following week. Next time you have a hankering for a dish loaded with summer flavor, like ice cream, muffins, shortcakes, cocktails, sangria, cake, galettes, salads, salsa, and more, use your senses to choose the tastiest fruit!