Get the lowdown on when you can find sweet, tasty, smooth skin nectarines at your grocery store or local farmer's market.
When it comes to stone fruit, people have their preferences.
While I like pretty much everything, there are those that have trouble with say, peaches.
How could someone not like a peach? It's not like they don't like the flavor of the peach, it's the fuzz on the outside that is giving them troubles.
Never fear - the nectarine is here.
Today I wanted to take a moment to focus in on nectarine season - when does it start, when does it end, and what are some of the best varieties to look out for it.
🌼 When Does the Season Begin?
As with much of the fruit we eat in the United States, the story begins in California. When you head to the grocery store chances are pretty good that the fresh nectarines you find will be California grown.
The season begins in early May (sometimes late April). For example, Kingsburg Orchard's (Kingsburg, California) first ripe nectarines of the season are their Ruby Fire variety. It's available around April 26th. This isn't any different than when some peach trees start to produce ripe fruit.
The early varieties that come out I find to be more on the acidic side, with sweeter fruit coming later.
The season really gets going with the variety "Zee Fire" which is ripe in mid to late May. This is a commercial variety of nectarine that you rarely seen mentioned on a store sign, but you can kind of predict it's arrival when nectarine displays grow larger and the prices gets cheaper. It's one of the best early season pieces of stone fruit, with good flavor and good balance of sweetness and tartness.
The Zee Fire nectarine is also as prime example of what happens when a new variety doesn't have a good plan. What do I mean?
This nectarine was released in 2003. Trees were easy to come by and everyone was planting them - like I said it's a flavorful variety and it's productive and pretty. Everyone planted it, so within 8 years the value of this variety plummeted.
The orchards race to be the first one to ship theirs before prices go down. You can read more about this on the Good Fruit Grower website. What this shows us is that there is more going on behind the scenes that many of us think about. And it effects both selection and the price we pay at the grocery store.
😥 When Does the Season End?
The California season wraps up at the beginning of September. Kingsburg Orchards' last variety of the season is called Orange Honey Heirloom and it's available around September 2nd.
You can find nectarines through early fall but they will be in smaller supplies and a lot of them are not worth it - too mealy!
During the winter months you can find some Southern Hemisphere grown nectarines in the grocery store. They are mostly from Chile and I don't think they are worth buying. When fruit is shipped a long ways it often is picked earlier or stored in the cold longer. Neither are good for flavor.
The best way to know if a nectarine is going to be sweet is to look for one with sugar spots on the skin. These are small white spots on the fruit, normally on the bottom of the fruit, opposite the stem end. These spots are actually sugars crystalizing on the skin.
🇺🇸 States That Grow Nectarines
Do other states grown nectarines besides California?
Any place that grows peaches possibly also grows their smoother cousins. Here is a list of states that I have found have orchards that grow nectarines.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
Leave a comment below and I can help recommend an orchard in your state.
In most grocery stores across the country, the only nectarines you are going to see are California - they dominate the commercial nectarine market.
When we get into August, I do see some Washington grown nectarines.
I have never seen a southern nectarine here in Michigan. None from Georgia or South Carolina. You can find them (Jaemore Farms in Georgia grows them but most likely they don't go much further than the borders of those states.)
I do buy Michigan grown nectarines at my local farmer's market, but most orchards here seem to stick to just growing peaches and not nectarines. When visiting New Hampshire in September one year, I got to pick nectarines directly off the trees with my family at a u-pick farm.
🥧 Did you know you can bake with nectarines? Most people seem to think to only make pies with peaches but you can also use nectarines. I prefer the yellow fleshed ones over white for this because they are more acidic. This helps to balance out the sweetness of whatever you are baking.
Here are some specific varieties of nectarines you should be on the lookout for.
By far these are my favorite. Sweet and rich flavor with a small pit inside. I buy as many as I can when they are in season, which is normally peaking in July but may also find them in August. The ones in the picture above are grown by Family Tree Farms.
Honey Fire from Trader Joe's
Trader Joe's sells their peaches and nectarines in a cardboard crates. The variety name is printed on the side of these crates so you can actually see what variety you are buying. One of my favorites to watch for is the Honey Fire variety. It is sweet, flavorful, and not too acidic. I bought them last year on June 14th - so look for them in early to mid June at your local Trader Joe's. You will not be disappointed.
No, these are not a combination of a mango and a nectarine - it's just a marketing name. It is an all-yellow nectarine like a yellow mango. It has an unique flavor that kind of reminds me of a mango with it's finish, but still tastes like a nectarine. It's worth searching out for something different, especially if you are a nectarine fanatic. I found these at Whole Foods Market during the month of July.
Honey Pearl Nectarines from Costco
My family is a big fan of white nectarines. One of the sweetest varieties is the Honey Pearl. Once again use the reading the site of the box to locate this variety. They were available at Costco in mid-late June.
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