Competing with the peach as the star stone fruit of the summer, the nectarine each time reaches the markets earlier, coexisting with other earlier ones such as the apricot. With a flavor similar to the first, although perhaps less of not so intense aromas, nectarine has been gaining popularity in recent years for its smooth and fine skin, very pleasant to eat raw without peeling.
There is a widespread belief that the nectarine is a hybrid of peach and plum, precisely because it combines the shape and pulp of one, and the skin of the other, but we have long known that this is not the case. This summer fruit has a remote natural origin, although it does belong to the same peach family.
Origin and extent of its production
The nectarine is the fruit of the nectarine, a small tree of the Rosaceae family, to which many species of the plant world belong. Like the peach, plum or almond tree, it fits into the genus Prunus, of which many trees and shrubs cultivated for their stone fruits are part.
As we have commented, the nectarine is not the product of a cross between two fruits, but a variety of the peach that would have arisen by spontaneous natural mutation thousands of years ago. Its exact origin is not yet clear, although most likely it comes from China, where the first peach trees were grown more than 2000 years ago.
The scientific name of prunus persica var. nucipersica It can therefore lead to another confusion; for the ancient Romans these products were “Persian fruits”The first specimens that began to be cultivated in Europe came from their lands. Some sources point to the military campaigns of Alexander the Great as responsible for the arrival of various oriental products, although it is most likely that it occurred through trade routes.
Be that as it may, peach trees and nectarines began to be cultivated throughout Europe – the first written reference that mentions the nectarine in English dates from the early seventeenth century – having a good reception in the Iberian Peninsula. The Spanish conquerors brought these trees to America, where the cultivation would also spread throughout the continent, having good roots centuries later in the United States.
In our country, the production of peach trees and their varieties would start with more force from the middle of the 20th century, after specializing the cultivation thanks to new irrigation systems and the introduction of varieties developed in the United States from hybridization and grafting with silver from China.
Today Spain is one of the main producers in the European Union, with 605,108 tons totals in 2019, according to official data from the Ministry of Agriculture. Catalonia, with 226,408 tonnes, leads production, with crops mainly focused on Lleida, followed by Huesca and the Murcia Region, where the earliest varieties come from each season. A high percentage of the crops are destined for export, mostly with European destinations.
Description and characteristics that make it unique
At first glance, the nectarine is very similar to peach, although it is not necessary to have a highly trained eye to distinguish them easily, the concussion with the red peach being perhaps more problematic.
Botanically it is a drupe, a fleshy fruit with a bone of remarkable size inside. It is often said that they are smaller than the peach, although it is a somewhat vague statement given the large number of varieties that exist today of both fruits.
The great defining characteristic of the nectarine is her smooth and fine skin, crispy when not too ripe yet. Therefore, it lacks that typical peach fuzz that many people care about so much -although it is perfectly edible, once washed-, so it scores points for the consumer. However, that bare skin is also more unprotected, making it more vulnerable and sensitive to bumps or small defects.
The skin color is often darker, with a mottled orange background red in a more or less homogeneous way, sometimes becoming almost completely covered in a very dark red tone. The pulp can be orange, reddish or a curious pale yellow, depending on the variety and the degree of maturity. Crunchier than the peach when it is still somewhat green, when it ripens it becomes very tender and juicy, with a texture that is actually more reminiscent of plums.
While some early or early-picked peaches can be tasteless, nectarines almost always offer a good aroma and flavor, intensifying as the fruit ripens and becomes softer. Sweet and freshHowever, it offers different and unique nuances, with slightly bitter or more acid touches. Another added advantage when eating it is that the bone tends to come off easily, with exceptions.
Nutritional properties and benefits
The nutritional characteristics of nectarines are very similar to those of peaches and related stone fruits. With a low calorie contentor -slightly higher than the first ones-, of about 40-45 calories per 100 g, they stand out for their high content of fiber, antioxidant vitamins and water.
They are fruits very rich in vitamin C and vitamin A, so their consumption in summer is ideal for strengthen the health of the body in the hottest season and when exposed to sunlight. It contributes to the maintenance of the skin and hair, sight and mucous membranes, the proper functioning of the immune system and helps protect us from the action of free radicals.
They are also a source of essential minerals, standing out particularly for its contribution of potassium, and to a lesser extent, magnesium and phosphorus. To enjoy its properties to the fullest, the ideal is to consume them at their optimum point of maturation, washed but with full skin, since a large amount of nutrients and, above all, fiber are concentrated in it.
All stone fruits are highly recommended for both athletes and those looking to take care of their weight. Moisturizing and satiating, they provide a healthy source of energy in the form of slow-absorbing carbohydrates, and help maintain good hydration. In addition, various studies place them as allies to prevent the accumulation of fat in the body, helping to reduce the risk of diabetes, obesity and other cardiovascular diseases.
How to preserve and use them in the kitchen
In addition to consuming them naturally at any time of the day, nectarines are very versatile to enrich all kinds of sweet and savory dishes. Their use can be summarized in that we can always use them as substitutes for peaches in practically any recipe, thus trying small variants of dishes that are already known to us.
When buying them we must follow the same advice as with any fruit: it is advisable to choose specimens mature but still firm to the touch, whose skin yields only slightly when pressed gently. They are less fragrant than peaches, but if the fruit is tasty it will emit an easy to perceive aroma. We must avoid too soft specimens, unless we want to use them immediately to make jam or some dessert.
They will be better preserved when they still have the tail attached that attached the fruit to the branch, and if the skin does not show defects, bumps or cuts. At room temperature, their flavor will be more intense and they will become sweeter and more tender. Once reached the optimum point of maturation, it is best to store them in the fridge to prevent them from spoiling in the heat.
The firmer and crisp nectarines are ideal to enrich salads with other fruits or with any vegetable and vegetables, marinating wonderfully with cheese and dairy sauces, for example based on yogurt. Its fresh aroma and sweet taste makes a good contrast with more bitter or spicy flavors, and is excellent for grilling or roasting. They are a tasty side dish for barbecued meats, as well as fresh fish and seafood dishes.
In sweet the possibilities are almost endless. We can combine them with other fruits to make fruit salads, smoothies, sorbets and ice creams, add them to sponge cake batters or top with cakes and tarts. To preserve them all year round, they are good candidates for the preparation of sweet preserves, in syrup or in the form of compotes and jams.
And, like the peach, it is perfect for flavor drinks with and without alcohol, such as sweet or sparkling wines, vodka and gin, or any version of sangria and tinto de verano.
Seven recipes with nectarine to make the most of it all summer
Beet, avocado and nectarine salad
Slice cooked or roasted beets into thin slices, no more than a half centimeter thick. Arrange them as a base for two plates or a large platter. Open the avocado, remove the pit and remove the pulp with the help of a spoon. Cut lengthwise into thin pieces.
Arrange the avocado on the beet and brush with lemon juice so that it does not oxidize too much. Cut the washed nectarine into pieces of a similar size and place also on the plates. Spread out the crumbled goat cheese.
Salt very lightly and add freshly ground pepper. Dress with lemon or lime juice, extra virgin olive oil and spread a little tarragon or chopped fresh basil and sesame seeds to taste.
More details in the full recipe.
Hazelnut frangipan nectarine coca
- Ingredients. 1 round puff pastry sheet, 2 eggs, 100 g of toasted hazelnuts, 100 g of sugar, 50 g of pastry flour, 100 g of tempered butter, 1/2 teaspoon of liquid vanilla, 900 g of peeled nectarines, thinly sliced , 200 g of apricot jam.
- Elaboration. We preheat the oven to 180º. We cover a removable mold, greased with butter, with the puff pastry, puncture the surface and paint it with one of the beaten eggs. reserving what is left. We keep the mold in the fridge. We crush the hazelnuts with the sugar in a food processor. Add the butter, an egg, the remaining beaten egg, the vanilla and process again. We distribute on the puff pastry base and place …