Stone fruit season is hard to beat. There’s nothing like heading into the market to see the stalls full of fresh apricots, cherries, plums, peaches and nectarines, knowing you’ll leave with a bag of juicy fruit. Each variety in the prunus genus contains a large pit in its center, but they all have a unique flavor and texture. When comparting nectarines vs. peaches, though, are strikingly similar to one another.
Wondering which one you should pick up for your favorite pie, crisp or cobbler recipe? We can help with that.
What Are Nectarines?
Nectarines are actually a type of peach, which makes it confusing to understand the difference between the two. They have very similar flavors, so the easiest way to distinguish a nectarine is by its skin. Nectarines are smooth and have a slightly firmer texture than peaches. You’ll find them in the grocery stores between May and October, but they’ll probably show up at your local farmers market between July and August.
What Are Peaches?
Unlike nectarines, peaches have fuzzy skin and usually boast a softer texture. You’ll find several different varieties of peaches, each with their own flavor characteristics. For starters, some peaches are clingstone (with the pit clinging to the flesh) and others are freestone (where the pit falls out freely). They can also have firmer, more acidic yellow flesh or softer, low-acid white flesh. The yellow-fleshed varieties are better for canning, and many say that white-fleshed peaches are sweeter. Like nectarines, peaches are generally available between late April and October, depending on the state where they’re grown.
Which Fruit Is Better?
Since these two stone fruits have such similar flavor profiles, you should really buy whichever one is freshest. Pick them up and give them a deep whiff: The one that smells more fragrant is the one to buy. If you do end up with underripe stone fruit, store them in a closed paper bag on the kitchen counter. Once they’re ripe, it’s best to eat them within a day or two, although you can extend their shelf life by a few days by storing them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.
If you love peaches and nectarines, you’re probably a fan of other stone fruit, too. Learn more about other types of stone fruit with our ultimate guide.