With their vibrant orange-red hue and sweet juiciness, nectarines make for an irresistible summer fruit. But if you’ve never bitten into one before, you may wonder — what does a nectarine actually taste like?
Nectarines offer a sweet, peachy flavor with a smooth, firm flesh and edible skin. Their taste and texture falls somewhere between a peach and a plum, with juicy tangy notes when perfectly ripe.
In this article, we’ll break down the identifying characteristics of nectarines including their flavor profile, texture, uses, varieties, seasonality and nutrition. Once you know exactly what fresh nectarines should taste and look like, you can fully enjoy this seasonal treat.
Table of Contents
Overview of Nectarines
Here’s a quick introduction to nectarines:
- Nectarines are stone fruits closely related to peaches. They originate from China.
- The key difference is their smooth, hairless orange-red skin, while peaches are fuzzier.
- Their flesh is juicy and yellow-orange with a large center pit.White nectarines are also less common.
- Size ranges from under 3 inches to over 5 inches in diameter depending on the variety.
- At their best, nectarines taste sweet and tangy with tropical nuances of mango and apricot.
So essentially, nectarines offer a vividly colored, smooth-skinned version of a peach with very similar sweet fruit flavors when ripe.
How Would You Describe the Taste of Nectarines?
The flavor of ripe nectarines can be characterized as:
- Sweet – They have a honeyed sweetness balanced by refreshing acidity when mature. Too firm and they lack ample sugar.
- Tart – A bright, tangy quality akin to citrus with subtle pleasant astringency.
- Tropical – Dynamic fruit essence combining notes of mango, pineapple, apricot and peach.
- Juicy – Each bite releases pockets of refreshing nectarine juice.
- Bright – A summery, sun-kissed brightness shines through.
When perfectly tree-ripened, nectarines offer an incredible sweet/tart juice bomb with tropical fruit complexity.
In addition to flavor, the texture of nectarines stands out:
- Tender – Ripe nectarines have a yielding, tender flesh with a satisfying bite.
- Juicy – The flesh is very moist and dripping when sliced into.
- Smooth – Lacks the fuzzy skin and flesh of peaches for a smoother mouthfeel.
- Firm but not crunchy – Has more give than an apple but still substantial.
- Melting – The flesh softens with cooking and practically melts when overripe.
The smooth, juicy flesh delivers a clean biting and chewing experience compared to fuzzy peaches.
Appearance and Skin
Nectarines also differ visually from peaches:
- Smooth, shiny exterior – Lack the fuzz or peach “bloom” covering peaches and instead have a smooth waxy skin.
- Vibrant orange-red color – Ranges from golden orange to vivid red-orange depending on variety.
- Uniform color – No green undertones or blushing since the skin is hairless.
- Smaller speckling – May have faint speckles but lack large splotches.
- Varying shape – Can be round, oblong, or flattened sided depending on type.
The vibrant hue and hairless skin help distinguish nectarines from peaches at first glance.
Popular Varieties of Nectarines
There are over 100 cultivated varieties of nectarines:
- White/Yellow Flesh – Sweet, aromatic, clingstone. Most common grocery store nectarine.
- August Red – Very juicy, red-streaked orange flesh. Freestone.
- Mayfire – Firm, tangy, early season nectarine good for slicing.
- June Red – Mid-season freestone with very red skin, sweet/tart balanced flavor.
- Arrington – Sweet, delicate flavor. Bright red skin. Thin, easy to peel skin.
- Hardired – Late summer nectarine. Firm flesh good for cooking. High acidity.
Trying different types through the season allows you to find your favorites.
How Does the Taste Compare to Peaches?
While quite similar, nectarines offer a few subtle differences from peaches:
- Firmer flesh – Nectarines have a crunchier, denser raw flesh compared to more delicate peaches.
- More sweet-tart in balance – Contain more balanced acidity and sweetness than peaches, which skew sweeter.
- Cleaner bite – The smooth skin and flesh avoids fuzzy sensation when biting into peaches.
- Brighter finish – The brisk acidity ends cleaner than the lingering sweetness of peaches.
- Subtle floral scent – Nectarines lack the almond-like notes that come from peach skin and flesh.
So nectarines offer brisker, clearer stone fruit flavor compared to the more mellow peach.
How to Select Ripe, Ready-to-Eat Nectarines
Follow these tips when picking nectarines:
- Choose nectarines with bright vivid orange-red coloring devoid of green tones.
- Avoid any with bruising, damp spots or other blemishes.
- Lift to check for heaviness for their size, which indicates high juicy flesh content.
- Lightly squeeze to feel slight give in flesh – not hard or mushy.
- Sniff – you should detect sweet, ripe fruit aromas at the stem end.
- Taste test when possible. Ripe nectarines will taste sweet and tangy.
Ensuring optimal ripeness results in the best, juiciest texture and most delicious concentrated flavor.
How to Store Nectarines
To keep nectarines fresh once purchased:
- Keep un-ripened nectarines at room temperature to ripen for a couple days until aromatic and slightly soft.
- Once ripe, move nectarines to the refrigerator crisper drawer.
- Enjoy ripe ones within 3-5 days for peak quality and flavor.
- Avoid storing on countertops for over 2 days once ripe.
Following proper storage maximizes the shelf life of these delicate fruits once ripened.
How to Eat and Enjoy Nectarines
Ways to indulge in fresh nectarines:
- Slice or cube to enjoy raw by the handful.
- Lightly roast or grill slices and drizzle with honey.
- Purée into smoothies, juice, or nectarine agua fresca.
- Bake into galettes, tarts, crisps, cobblers or pies.
- Roast with meat like pork or chicken.
- Pickle into chutney or nectarine salsa.
- Macerate into nectarine basil salad.
Ripe nectarines need minimal adornment beyond a sprinkle of sugar or squeeze of lime. But cooking concentrates their flavors beautifully too.
Nutrition Benefits of Nectarines
Nectarines provide important nutrients:
- Rich in vitamin C – contains 10% DV per fruit. Boosts immunity.
- Fiber – 3 grams per nectarine aids digestion.
- Vitamin A – 8% DV. Important for eyes and skin.
- Potassium – helps regulate fluids and heart function.
- Low calorie – only 60 calories each.
Nectarines deliver a nutrient powerhouse in a sweet, juicy package. The red pigments contain disease-fighting antioxidants too.
Where to Find Nectarines
Nectarines are in season:
- May through September, with a mid summer peak.
- Found at grocery stores, farmers markets, farm stands and fruit delivery services.
- Grown in temperate climates across the U.S., Europe, Australia and Asia. Most U.S. nectarines come from California.
Seek out in-season, ripe nectarines for heavenly flavor at an affordable price. Out of season they lack flavor and juiciness.
Key Takeaways – What Does Nectarine Taste Like
- Nectarines offer a dynamic sweet-tart flavor with tropical fruit essence of mango, peach, and apricot.
- Their flesh is tender and juicy when ripe, with a smooth skin devoid of peach fuzz.
- They contain more acidity and less overt sweetness compared to peaches.
- Select nectarines that are vibrant orange-red with a little give when lightly squeezed.
- Store ripe nectarines in the fridge and enjoy within a few days for the best texture and flavor.
- Macerate into salads, bake into tarts, or simply enjoy raw – ripe nectarines shine!
Now that you know what to look, feel and taste for, finding a perfectly ripe, juicy nectarine will be a sublime summer treat.