Peaches & Nectarines
A peach is a stone fruit from a fruit tree of the rose family. Peaches are grown throughout the warmer temperate regions of the Southern and Northern hemispheres. Believed to be native of China, the peach tree spread west through Mediterranean countries before later being found in other parts of Europe. From as early as 1600, the fruit was found in Mexico as the Spanish explorers took the peaches to the New World. It wasn’t until the 19th century when large-scale commercial peach growing began in the United States. Prior to this, the cultivation and selection of new varieties of peaches were largely confined to the gardens of toe nobility. Over the centuries, the practice of grafting superior strains into hardy seedling rootstocks took the peach from an often poor quality product to a high quality, delicious and juicy fruit known today.
Peaches that are cultivated are divided into either clingstone or freestone, dependant on whether the flesh sticks to the stone or not. Occasionally, fruit can be found which is partially clingstone and freestone thus these are called semi-free. Clingstone peaches are preferred for canning whereas freestone for eating fresh. Both clingstone and freestone peaches can have either yellow or white flesh. Although, taste can vary greatly, yellow- fleshed peaches generally have an acidic tang coupled with sweetness which is historically favoured by those in Europe and North America. Yellow-fleshed peaches are especially high in vitamin A. The white-fleshed in comparison, are typically very sweet with little acidity and are most popular in Japan, China and neighbouring Asian countries.
Although commercially regarded as different fruits, nectarines and peaches are the same species. The difference between the two is the characteristic fuzz on the skin of the peaches where as it is absent on nectarines. It is suggested through genetic studies that nectarines are produced due to a recessive allele, whereas peaches have a dominant allele for fuzzy skin.
Nectarines are the smooth-skinned peach of the Rosaceae family. A genetic variant of peaches, nectarines are grown in the same climate; the warmer temperate regions of the Northern and Southern hemispheres. The trees of both nectarines and peaches are virtually indistinguishable. Occasionally, nectarines may appear on peach trees; a result of a process known as bud variation or sporting also known as a vegetative deviation from the normal. Nectarine cultivation is essentially the same as cultivating peach trees. The best results for a perfect fruit are generally obtained on gravel or well-drained sandy loams which are enriched with nitrogen.
Closely related to plums, almonds, peaches, nectarines and cherries, apricots are also a stone fruit of the Rosaceae family. Largely cultivated throughout the temperate regions, especially the Mediterranean; apricots can be eaten fresh or cooked and can be preserved through canning or drying. Dried apricots are a great source of iron. Due to their excellent source of vitamin A and high natural-sugar content, the fruit is also readily turned in to jam or used in liqueur flavouring.
Similar in shape to a peach or nectarine, apricots are nearly smooth with a round to oblong shape in some varieties. When ripe, apricots have little to no hairiness with a rich yellow to yellowish orange flesh. Domesticated in China, apricots are now cultivated on every continent with the exception of Antarctica. Shown through archaeological evidence, apricots were eaten in ancient Armenia being first introduced into the New World by Spanish missionaries in California in the early 18th century. Top producers of apricots include Iran, Turkey, Italy, Algeria and Uzbekistan.
These stone fruit are widely eaten fresh as a hand fruit but are also well known for being baked in cobblers and pies making a delicious dessert. Sliced canned peaches and nectarine are a staple in many regions throughout the world. Being highly versatile, apricots can be used in tarts and crumbles, cooked down to make compote, chutneys or jams or poached and served with double cream.
Available in the fridges we have some juicy apricots, peaches and nectarines available loose and in pre packed punnets. Flat or doughnut peaches and nectarines are also available in 500g punnets.
Stone fruit on your menu.
Are you using peaches, nectarines or apricots on your menu this season? If so please share pictures of the dish on Twitter and we will share it with our network of chefs.