With spring and summer fast approaching, it's almost time for delectable, juicy peaches. Though every state has different peak season times for peaches, they're best when it's sunny and warm. Whether you slice them up and eat them on their own or bake them into a cobbler, peaches provide plenty of natural minerals and vitamins and can elevate any dish.
However, it's common for people to confuse this summertime staple with another stone fruit — the nectarine. Both fruits are widely enjoyed for their beautiful sunset colors, flavor and juiciness. But they actually have very distinct genetic, texture and taste differences. Peaches and nectarines also have various uses in recipes. Let's look at how nectarines and peaches differ and some similarities they share.
Are Peaches and Nectarines the Same?
Because peaches and nectarines have a similar appearance, it's easy to see how they are very close relations. Nectarines actually originated as a variant of the peach. Today, many juicy nectarines are developed by crossbreeding with peaches and other varieties of nectarines. In fact, you can sometimes find a peach on a nectarine tree and vice versa.
However, there are a few misconceptions about these related fruits. While peaches and nectarines are related stone fruits, which are any fruits with a pit in the center, some believe that a nectarine is a product of a peach and a plum, which is not the case. It's also a common misconception that nectarines are genetically modified peaches, which is not true either. Some people believe this myth due to the fact that nectarines have different varieties that produce both white and yellow flesh. Peaches also have this variety.
Nectarines are essentially fuzz-free peaches, which is one of the differences between peaches and nectarines that consumers notice right away. Though these fruits have a very similar genetic makeup, they maintain a few distinct qualities, which we'll discuss in more detail below.
A Brief History and Genetic Differences
Peaches — or Prunus persica — are rumored to have originated from China, as they were found in the country more than 8,000 years ago. Eventually, they were brought to the Middle East, India and Europe. It's believed that Spanish settlers first brought peaches to America sometime around the 16th century. Today, peaches tend to thrive in warm climates on both hemispheres. Like peaches, it's believed that nectarines also came from China a few thousand years later.
Through trade, nectarines were eventually brought to Greece, where they became a treasured fruit known as nectar, or "the drink of the gods" — this is where nectarine gets its name. Nectarines were not seen in America until about the 19th century. Both fruits belong to the rose, or Rosaceae, family. While China remains the biggest producer of peaches, California is the top producer in the U.S.
As far as their genetic makeup, peaches and nectarines are virtually the same, except for the texture of their skin. The texture distinction is caused by a single gene difference. Both fruits have a dominant or recessive gene. Peaches have the dominant gene, which gives them their fuzzy skin, whereas nectarines have a recessive gene that gives them smooth skin. Peaches also tend to be slightly larger and softer than nectarines.
Both peaches and nectarines have a sweet, juicy flavor and can have yellow or white flesh on the inside. Yellow flesh typically means that the fruit will be a bit more sour and tart, whereas white flesh signifies a sweeter flavor.
Because of the word "nectar" in nectarines — which is a sugary liquid produced by plants that insects and birds eat — many people assume that they are sweeter than peaches. This is not necessarily true, as nectarines lean more toward a tangy, sweet flavor, while peaches generally have a more upfront sweetness.
However, it all depends on the variety of the fruit and how ripe it is. The ripeness of the fruit will determine how sweet it is overall. The riper the fruit, the sweeter it is. The taste difference will also depend on a person's taste buds and preferences. Every person can have a unique experience tasting the same fruit.
Some may think nectarines are sour, while others will think they're too sweet. Peaches with white flesh are less acidic than ones with yellow flesh, for example, so they may taste sweeter to some people.
While peaches and nectarines have very similar nutritional profiles, there are a few slight differences that stand out. Firstly, when it comes to vitamins, peaches tend to have more vitamin C, vitamin B2 and vitamin K. Nectarines, however, contain more vitamin B1, vitamin B3, vitamin B5 and folate.
Both peaches and nectarines contain equal amounts of vitamin A, vitamin E and vitamin B6. There is no sodium or vitamin B12 in either of these fruits, but there are generally equal amounts of zinc, magnesium, calcium and potassium. Peaches and nectarines also contain similar amounts of fiber and protein. Nectarines have a slightly higher amount of carbs than peaches. According to the FDA, about 5 ounces of both raw peach and nectarine contain 60 calories.
When to Use One Over the Other
Aside from slicing open fresh fruit and digging in, there are plenty of ways you can enjoy peaches and nectarines year-round. Nectarines are different than peaches due to their slightly tangier taste, and they're great as salad toppings or cooked into pies and jams like many other fruits. Grilling nectarines halves offers a warm, tart treat to top over ice cream. Nectarines have a firmer texture, so they're ideal for direct grilling.
You can also freeze slices of nectarine for a cold, crisp burst of flavor on hot summer days. You may even wish to add some seasonings and spices on top of your fresh nectarine, such as ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and almonds.
As for peaches, they are traditionally used in pies and cobblers, but they are also ideal for recipes like tarts and sauces. Because peaches have a softer texture, they're usually preferred in baking recipes, such as creating delicious peach butter. If you plan to make a recipe that has a softer, mushier consistency, then peaches are the best choice.
You can even use fresh peaches to create delicious salsa, ice cream, muffins and flavored cocktails. Whatever you have in mind, you can incorporate a juicy, tasty peach. Other popular peach recipes include peach crumb bars, brown sugar baked peaches and peach pudding.
Visit Our Market Today!
As you can see, there are plenty of delicious and healthy benefits to eating fresh fruit from the peach family. With warm, sunny weather finally approaching, there's nothing more exciting than getting to bite into a freshly picked local peach. At Lane Southern Orchards, we're proud to offer Southern charm and a wide selection of fresh, local produce, including over 35 varieties of peaches.
If you're looking for a fun activity for your entire family, come down and visit our farm and roadside market for some juicy Georgia peaches, ice cream, jams, dressings and other farm-fresh treats. We also invite you to shop our products online and get fresh peaches delivered right to your door.