Food and Drink

   

In Season: Nectarines

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What is summer without peaches and nectarines, or Christmas without cherries? The warming weather means the re-appearance of stone-fruits at last. The first are nectarines (their name meaning ‘sweet as nectar’), and I just can’t wait for their fragrant sweetness once again.

Contrary to a common belief, nectarines are not a cross between a peach and a plum, but a fuzz-less variety of peach. If you were to grow a tree from a peach or a nectarine pip you may get peaches or you may get nectarines, which indicates they’re a genetic variant rather than a cross.

They are thought to have originated in ancient China, and there are signs of cultivation in other old civilizations, in Persia, Greece and Rome, and appeared in Europe in the late 16th century.

Like peaches they can be white or yellow, clingstone or freestone, but are generally smaller, sweeter and denser than peaches, with an acidic undertone that makes them very versatile. Choose those which are fragrant and soft to the touch. Their non-furry skin doesn’t require peeling, but if you do the result will be a lovely, silky smoothness. Just plunge them into simmering water for a second or two and the skin will slip away. Poach them gently in a light sugar syrup (50% water 50% sugar) will give you a delicious, simple dessert, just top with yoghurt – lovely for breakfast too.

Health benefits are that they are loaded with antioxidants, Vitamins A and C, beta-carotene, and Potassium.

For something really different here’s a great summer salsa that goes well with shell-fish or white fleshed, light flavoured fish, such as Rockling or Dory. I have served it with slices of Rock Lobster, with a light mesclun salad. Try it also with BBQ’d pork fillet. This will make enough salsa for about 4 portions.

Ingredients:
3 large nectarines (unpeeled, diced)
1 red chili (chopped)
1 tablespoon red onion (chopped)
1 clove garlic (crushed)
½ bunch Coriander (chopped)
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (not olive)
Sea salt, to taste

Method:
Simply gently combine all the ingredients just before you use it, remembering that nectarine flesh is fragile. Add the lime juice last, to taste, then adjust the seasoning.


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