The nectarine is a cultivar group of peach that has a smooth, fuzzless skin. Though fuzzy peaches and nectarines are commercially regarded as different fruits, with nectarines often erroneously believed to be a crossbreed between peaches and plums, or a "peach with a plum skin", they belong to the same species as peaches. Several genetic studies have concluded in fact that nectarines are created due to a recessive gene, whereas a fuzzy peach skin is dominant. Nectarines have arisen many times from peach trees, often as bud sports.
As with peaches, nectarines can be white or yellow, and clingstone or freestone. On average, nectarines are slightly smaller and sweeter than peaches, but with much overlap. The lack of skin fuzz can make nectarine skins appear more reddish than those of peaches, contributing to the fruit's plum-like appearance. The lack of down on the skin also means their skin is more easily bruised than peaches.
The history of the nectarine is unclear; the first recorded mention in English is from 1616, but they had probably been grown much earlier within the native range of the Peach in central and eastern Asia.
How to buy: Good-quality nectarines will be fairly large, have smooth, unblemished skin and will be firm but not rock-hard. Ripen nectarines at home for 2 to 3 days at room temperature until they are slightly soft along the seam. Ripe fruit will have a sweet nectarine smell that is stronger when the fruit is at room temperature.