Peaches and Nectarines... What's All the Fuzz About?

August 17, 2016

Peaches are the quintessential southern summer fruit. Their juicy sweet goodness makes the hot humid weather endurable. But did you know they are originally from China?!? They most likely came to Europe through Persia, along the routes of the silk trade thousands of years ago. It is believed that Spanish explorers brought them to North America. They are related to plums, almonds and roses. Although Georgia calls itself the Peach State and South Carolina considers itself the Tastier Peach State, peaches are cultivated from New England to California. Anywhere there is a cold winter followed by a warm spring will help develop the buds into fruit by June.

Providence Produce gets its peaches from South Carolina. About 40 varieties of peaches are cultivated in SC, and I often get asked which one we have on the counter. Don't think we are not knowledgeable, but honestly, we don't focus on the names. We bring in the varieties that are good eating peaches, we don't specialize in the less sweet pickling varieties. A tree produces fruit for about two weeks and then we will pick from a different orchard and will have a different variety. Peaches, unlike apples varieties that we know by heart, cannot be stored out of season, so you won't be able to find a SuzieQ, Indian or O'Henry in January. Changing our signs every couple of weeks would get tiresome. And by mid-July the only thing most customers really care about is that the fruit has become the "cling-free" variety!! We want the fruit to come clean off the pit for easier cutting and less waste when we make cobblers and jam.

Throughout our season you will notice we also have nectarines. So what is the difference? Many people think nectarines are a cross between a peach and a plum, its smooth skinned cousin. This is NOT true. A nectarine is a peach without the fuzz. Nectarines come in white and yellow varieties just like peaches. Think of a nectarine like a blue-eyed child. A peach pit carrying a recessive gene to not produce fuzz may grow into a tree that bears nectarines. It is a naturally occurring mutation. In the following generation, that nectarine pit may produce peaches or nectarines. Because of this, large cultivars will guarantee nectarine production through grafting techniques.

Many recipes call for peeling the peaches, so you could use nectarines and no one would even know.

Here is a recipe for a classic cobbler, feel free to use nectarines.

The following is a recipe from Slightly North of Broad restaurant and executive chef Frank Lee. The recipe appeared in the "Charleston Classic Desserts" cookbook by Janice Shay (Pelican Publishing, 2008).

Peach Cobbler

Serves 4 to 5

For filling:
8 cups peeled and sliced peaches
½ cup bourbon (or to taste)
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

For topping:
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
½ cup sour cream
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

To make the filling, combine the peaches, bourbon, sugar and vanilla in a bowl. Let stand for at least 30 minutes to macerate. (It can be left overnight in the refrigerator.) Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. To make the topping, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg. Fold in the sour cream. Sift together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon into a separate bowl. Fold into the butter mixture. To assemble the cobbler, spoon 2 cups of the peach filling into each individual 3-cup ungreased baking dish. Top with about 1 cup of the topping mixture, dolloping it onto the cobbler mixture. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the topping is golden and the juices are bubbling. Serve warm or hot, with ice cream.

About the Author

Donna M., Providence Road

Donna M.
Stand Co-Lead, Providence Road

Donna has been a key part of the Providence Road team since 2010. She is an amazing mother, wife and person who loves Providence Produce and the values and principles of what we stand for. Donna and her family live in the Providence area of Charlotte and are originally from Massachusetts - alumni of Babson College in Babson Park, MA

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