It’s incredible what a little chin hair can do.
Just imagine, if you will, Santa Claus without his magnificent beard. Would we even be able to recognize the icon without it? (On the flip side, and a bit more terrifyingly, imagine a 14-year-old boy rocking ZZ Top-style whiskers!)
Like it or not, facial hair – or the lack thereof – is very often a point of personal identity. And those matters of personal grooming are no less considered in the fruit world, especially when it comes to nectarines.
Actually, you could just as rightfully think of nectarines as the hairless version of peaches.
Yes, the fruits have their own official scientific designation – P. persica var. nucipersica, to be precise – and they’re objectively different from peaches when it comes to their general flavor, scent and, perhaps most notably, skin texture.
But the fruits are technically a peach cultivar.
Nectarines are one of those beautiful examples of nature’s happy accidents. They first evolved through the genetic mutation of a regular peach plant in China, nearly 2000 years ago. The chromosomal mix-up is what resulted in the nectarine’s fuzz-free existence.
And we get it: Facial hair isn’t for everyone. Including, apparently, those ancient Chinese gardeners who picked up on the strange new fruit and ran with it, beginning to breed hairless peaches on purpose.
We’re pretty grateful, too, because that foresight has today led to over 50 different types of nectarine varieties!
Relaying the full list of cultivars would take all day – and, if you’re anything like us, you’d like to spend more time eating nectarines than reading about them – so we’ve whittled the list down to some of the most popular types of nectarines out there:
But before we get into the nitty gritty details of what each cultivar brings to the table, it might be helpful to understand the bigger picture. There are a few overarching ways to designate all those wonderful nectarine varieties, including:
One major difference in the fruits is literally skin-deep.
Nectarines come in two major varieties: Yellow- and white-fleshed.
While both are boldly flavored and highly aromatic, there are a few nuts and bolts differences that distinguish the two. Namely, their acid-to-sugar ratios.
White-fleshed nectarines are the sweeter versions of the fruit, with the varietals tipping heavier on the sugar side of the scale. Yellow-fleshed nectarines, on the other hand, offer more acid than sugar, which comes through in their tangier taste.
Either way, though, there’s at least one thing that’s true about both types of nectarines: They’re delicious!
Now we’re really getting to the heart of the matter.
Clingstone and Freestone may sound like two rejected Flinstones characters, but they actually describe the nature of these types of nectarines’ pit – or, stone.
As their names may indicate, clingstone nectarine varietals come with a stone that’s a little harder to separate from their flesh. (Consider them the person who goes on one date with someone then starts planning the wedding.)
As such, clingstones are a bit tougher and messier to eat. Biters be warned: Your teeth may crunch down on the unpleasant stone if you go too deep, and the nectarines are also notoriously more fibrous.
Freestones, on the other hand, are the free-loving hippies of the bunch, seeing no reason why their pits should be attached to their flesh. Generally speaking, these are much more pleasant types of nectarines to bite into, with the flesh yielding before your teeth hit the stone.
(And for those out there with true commitment issues, there are also semi-freestone varietals, with stones that attach to some areas of the nectarine’s flesh, but aren’t completely stuck.)
We guess there’s truly something out there for everyone!
Now that we’re a bit more beefed up on the general types of nectarines, it’s time to drill into the details.
Whether you’re at the grocery store or the farmer’s market, you may want to watch out for these most popular types of nectarines:
One of the largest nectarine varietals, these white-fleshed examples are noted for their particularly rich, sweet flavor.
As a freestone variety as well – and one sporting a particularly lovely blush skin to boot – this cultivar makes for one of the most pleasant and popular types of nectarines to bite into.
An aesthetic stand-out in the nectarine world, these varietals aren’t afraid to be different.
Armking nectarines are particularly noted for their odd, oblong or otherwise irregular shapes, and the fruits also rock a particularly vibrant flesh, which mixes up hues of orange-red and yellow.
Still, taste-wise, they’re a bit more on the acidic side, so sweet-toothed nectarine lovers beware!
If nothing else, this nectarine rocks one of the best fruit cultivar names we’ve ever heard.
But they also happen to live up to the happy moniker, with a beautiful deep-red skin and freestone bite. Double Delights are also a yellow-skin cultivar, but even then, they land on the sweeter side of the spectrum.
If Armkings are the oddballs of the nectarine world, Early Sungrands are the poster children.
They come in nearly perfectly shaped and colored, rocking a lovely round measurement and a deep red and yellow skin.
Inside, their yellow flesh is tangy and juicy, though their stones are typically on the larger side.
A classic when it comes to flavor, this varietal is one of the most popular types of nectarines.
Fantasias – like the fantasies their name evokes – are brightly colored and beautiful. They’re on the larger side, with their yellow flesh decorated by pink streaks. And they consistently rank as one of the tastiest and juiciest types of nectarines.
These nectarine namers really don’t mince words.
Heavenly White nectarines are nearly exactly as they sound. The white-fleshed variety are particularly tasty, with a creamy white flesh that bears the sweetest bite. And their freestone status makes them especially angelic to snack on.
One of the largest nectarine varietals, these clingstones offer plenty of flesh to bite into, making it a bit easier to work around that bit that just won’t budge.
As it is, their flesh also happens to be yellow – technically – though it comes off as much closer to orange in most examples. Still, taste-wise, this cultivar carries the same noted tanginess of its yellow-fleshed brethren.
One of the first nectarines to blossom in the season, this varietal is the harbinger of good things to come.
And May Grand nectarines offer plenty of goodness themselves, thanks to their large size, bright red color and lovely, mild taste!
True sun worshippers, these types of nectarines are most commonly found grown along the coastal states of Florida, Texas and Louisiana.
But all those extra rays does this cultivar good, as it blossoms through with a lovely deep red skin and sweet-leaning yellow flesh that has just the right amount of juiciness and firmness.
So they may say that there are many ways to skin a cat, but – in a much tastier and animal-friendly way – we’re grateful to say there are even more ways to skin a nectarine.