Discovering Nectarines and Other Drupes

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I’ve lived in North America for over forty years but I’ve never had a nectarines until a few days ago. How could I have missed it? What happened was, I think, the fruit appeared toward the end of summer when I’m usually sated with the bonanza of fruits the season brings and I just skip its arrival as a non-event. Or maybe I thought the nectarine was not a true fruit but a cross between two fruit species and elitist that I sometimes can be I decided it was not worth my time to discover this luscious delight.

I blame Trader Joe’s for introducing the fruit into my gustatory repertoire. Last week they advertised white nectarines as something to try because it was sweeter than the usual nectarines. True to form I didn’t see “nectarines” and though the fruit was “white peach.” I didn’t discover my mistake until I was ready to serve the fruit to a friend and bragged how this was something new, a white peach. He corrected me: it’s nectarine. Nectarine? I salvaged the label from the trash and sure enough it read nectarine, but white nectarine.

Anyway I went ahead, cut and served it. I sunk my teeth into my half of the fruit and juice squirted all over the place, overflowing and dripping out my mouth. I felt momentarily silly until the experience blocked out any other sensation. I was conquered territory. I’m now a fan.

I explored produce in other markets and decided to try the regular nectarines. Those are juicy too but the flesh has a different quality. It’s translucent whereas white nectarines have fine sandy, milky flesh. I can see how people think of nectarines as crossed cultivars of plums because regular nectarines have flesh that look and taste like plums.

In fact nectarines are cultivars of peach except that their skin is smooth so that sometimes they’re called “shaved peach.” Like peaches they’re believed to have originated in Central or Eastern Asia although Europeans initially believed peaches came from Persia, hence the name peach from French peche, from Latin malum persicus.

Like regular peaches, white nectarines should combine with banana and the usual fruits I blend with dairy to make my post-workout meal in the morning. I am not as keen about plums or regular nectarines because the consistency of the flesh is different. They would show up like translucent or glass-like fragments, which I suppose, can be attractive too, like tapioca “pearls” in Taiwan iced bubble teas or “nata de coco” in Philippine halo-halo.

Nectarines like peaches don’t do well in the tropics. They are summer fruit in temperate countries. Nonetheless our summer harvest of fruits in North America take me back to the tropics and their unique fruit offerings. Wherever we are, we develop our own list of favorite foods, what become our comfort food, food we associate with the good times. White nectarines is joining that list for me.