What is the Difference Between a Peach and a Nectarine?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Nectarines have a smooth outer skin.
Nectarines have a smooth outer skin.

Peaches and nectarines are popular stone fruits that both mature in mid to late summer. There is actually only one major difference that separates these two types of fruit, and it is notable to even the casual observer. A peach has fuzzy skin, while a nectarine does not. As a general rule, the fruits also have slightly different tastes and textures, but this is due more to breeder selection than to nature. They both have the same heady scent and rich flavor, and they can be used interchangeably in a wide assortment of foods.

Peaches, unlike nectarines, have a fuzzy skin.
Peaches, unlike nectarines, have a fuzzy skin.

Peaches have been grown in Asia for centuries, and they proved to be a popular export once they were introduced to the West. Nectarines were also grown in Asia, and early botanists noticed that nectarines sometimes appeared on a peach tree, or vice versa. Once genetics became more fully understood, scientists realized that the different between a peach and a nectarine was actually extremely small.

Doughnut peaches.
Doughnut peaches.

The difference comes down to one recessive gene, which determines whether or not the resulting fruit will be fuzzy. If both parent trees pass on a copy of this gene to a seedling, the result will be a nectarine. Otherwise, peaches and nectarines are genetically identical, as anyone who has noticed the resemblance between the two fruits probably realizes. Since many modern fruit trees are produced by cloning, this gene is not as large of an issue as it once was.

Both fruits range in color from a creamy yellow to a rich orange with a red blush. They may be almost white to orange and tend to be sweet, juicy, and very flavorful. When blind tasted side by side, a peach and a nectarine may actually taste identical, as long as they are peeled so that taste subjects cannot use the skin as a reference.

Nectarines tend to be bred to be somewhat smaller than peaches, and they may have a firmer texture and a sweeter flavor. Both fruit appear in freestone and clingstone varieties. A freestone fruit has a pit that will readily fall out when the fruit is cut in half, while the pit of a clingstone fruit is difficult to dislodge. Freestone fruits are great for salads and other dishes in which the shape of the fruit is important, while clingstone fruit can be used to make pies and preserves, since it doesn't matter if the fruit is mangled to get the pit out.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon959530

My partner is also allergic to peaches but not nectarines. The fuzzy skin of a peach gives her mouth ulcers.

anon959397

Grill nectarine halves with grape seed oil, then flambé in sauce pan with peach liquor, fill pit hole with a whipped topping made from heavy cream, mascarpone and vanilla bean. Awesome!

anon349131

If peaches and nectarines are virtually the same, why are peaches cheaper to buy than nectarines?

Belted

My grandparents lived in Georgia on what used to be a plantation and they had 6 or 7 different peach tree varieties.

My grandfather loved peaches and he cared for those trees like they were his children. By the end of his life they were producing thousands and thousands of peaches every year.

I always loved visiting them and eating peach everything - peach pie, peach preserves, peach wine even. It was a beautiful place.

tigers88

My next door neighbor here in St. Louis has a nectarine tree. But as far as I know it would be impossible to grow a peach tree here because of our climate.

So how come two fruits that are so similar have drastically different growing conditions?

chivebasil

Has anyone ever had a nectarine pie before? I have once, but that is the only time I have ever seen someone make it. It was tasty, a lot like peach pie honestly, but still really good. I would eat it again but it seems like no one wants to make it.

OeKc05

White nectarines are delicious. I took some with me on my beach vacation last year, and I had one for breakfast every day, along with an orange chocolate granola bar and some hazelnut coffee.

The nectarines are just sweeter than peaches. When you bite into a peach, you never really know what you are going to get. I've often found peaches to be bitter, even when they were slightly soft.

Once a white nectarine gets tender, it is almost always sweet. If it isn't totally ripe, at least it is more tart than bitter.

seag47

@lighth0se33 – I know what you mean. I can't eat a fresh peach because of the weird texture. So, I stick to items made from peaches.

I love pouring peach syrup on my pancakes. It is so sweet, but the flavor of the peaches is very strong.

I also like drinking white peach juice. I think it's probably mixed with other types of juice, but the peach is the predominant flavor. There's no pulp, though, so there's no fuzz!

lighth0se33

I love the feel of peaches. They feel like velvet, and it would be cool if we could make clothes from this stuff.

The texture of nectarines is rather boring. The taste is okay, but I just would rather buy peaches.

I think it's so cool that edible fruit lies beneath these little velvet coats. I can't bring myself to eat the peeling. I'd feel like a goat eating a sweater!

feasting

My neighbor's only fruit tree is a peach tree, but it produces more than enough to last her through the season. In fact, she gets so many ripe peaches in just a few weeks that she gives plenty of them to me.

We got together and made some peach preserves last year. They are so delicious!

I don't know if I've ever seen any nectarine preserves, though. I guess that since the peeling is discarded, it really wouldn't matter if peaches or nectarines were used to make the preserves.

anon109587

what happens when you eat a peach then?

anon95293

I am allergic to the peach fuzz, so I can eat nectarines with no problem. Depends on what the allergy is.

anon94313

did you read the article? of course she would be allergic to nectarines as well because there is only one difference between the two: the recessive gene of fuzziness.

anon80465

why does my nectarine have a dark color?

anon38620

I don't believe that she is also allergic to nectarines.

anon17882

hi, we have an employee in the company who is allergic to peaches...would she be allergic to nectarines as well because our company is peach free?

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    • Nectarines have a smooth outer skin.
      Nectarines have a smooth outer skin.
    • Peaches, unlike nectarines, have a fuzzy skin.
      Peaches, unlike nectarines, have a fuzzy skin.
    • Doughnut peaches.
      Doughnut peaches.