Field of Science

What is a nectarine?

Someone asked an interesting question, "What is a nectarine?"  A nectarine is a fuzzless peach, no more, no
less, a peach with a smooth skin.  Although considered a different fruit and a variety of peach (same species), the genetic difference is trivial.  A dominant gene produces the fuzzy hairs on a peach, and if only recessive genes are present, the skin is smooth.  Whether the nectarine is redder or just looks redder skinned when hairless is hard to determine, but the nectarine is not the result of hybridization with a plum although both are in the same genus, Prunus.  The fuzzless condition probably arose via a mutation in a bud resulting in a branch bearing fuzzless peaches, a so-called "sport".  Sports arise fairly often because plants sequester germ tissue from somatic tissue annually in a woody perennial.  Taking buds and grafting them to peach root stock propagates the mutation.  The nectarine mutation has probably occurred several times arising from several different peaches and they show the same range of general diversity: white or orange flesh, cling or free-stone.  However, in TPP's experience, nectarines never taste as good as a peach, and it may be because peaches arrive in farmer's markets fresh, directly from the orchard, but in our locale nectarines never do, so the nectraines in markets are probably picked under ripe to reduce bruising damage and they then do not ripen to full flavor.  Nectarines tend to be smaller and sweeter, often with white flesh, perhaps again reflecting whatever peach variety they arose from.  Image courtesy of Flagstaffotos

No comments: