Summer is when I eat my weight in peaches and nectarines, and my toddler has definitely inherited the love-for-stone-fruit gene. She can handle a large peach or nectarine in one sitting, so we make sure to stock up at the farmers market on weekends.
We don't really care whether we're buying peaches or nectarines, we just buy what looks, smells, and tastes good. But it did get me to thinking, what are the differences between the two?
The Difference Between Peaches and Nectarines
The main physical difference is that peaches have a fuzzy coating, whereas nectarines are smooth and do not have this coating. They are almost identical genetically, but there is a gene variant between the two.
Peaches have a dominant allele (variant form of a gene), which results in the soft, fuzzy coating on the outside. They can be freestone, which means the pit falls easily away from the flesh, or clingstone, where the pits stay stuck to the flesh. Peaches can come in yellow or white varieties.
Nectarines, however, express a recessive gene that results in no fuzz growth on the outside, and smooth skin. They tend to be smaller, firmer, and more aromatic than peaches, but they can also be more susceptible to diseases. Like peaches, they can be freestone or clingstone, and they also come in white and yellow varieties.
These differences between peaches and nectarines are really quite subtle, and when cooking with them, they can be used interchangeably. While some claim that nectarines are juicier and sweeter, I really haven't found that to be consistently true. I'd much rather shop by what looks best at the market!
- More on picking peaches: Pro Tips for Picking a Perfect Peach