Flavour of the month: nectarines
We're at the tail end of nectarine season, so grab what you can of this delightful fruit – equally at home in sweet and savoury applications.
The origins of this fruit are deeply planted in Asia and more particularly, China. Both yellow and white fleshed fruit of either the Clingstone or Freestone varieties are available. The yellow Clingstone nectarine was considered the prince of fruit as they were always very juicy and messy to eat.
Nectarines need a cold winter to flavour the fruit trees, moderate rainfall for juiciness and hot dry summers to colour the fruit both internally and externally.
Australian nectarines are grown in all states but the best produce comes from the southern regions of the country. Fruit producing areas include the Hills district in Sydney’s north west, the Hunter Valley, Donnybrook in Western Australia and the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.
Nectarines have two quite distinct flavours during their maturity. As a green, firm fruit they are nutty and even a little grassy. On maturity they develop a stronger perfume with a more honey blossom flavour and aroma.
Nectarines seem to go nicely with many ingredients, but here are a few matches worth considering:
- Blue cheese
- Vanilla ice cream
- Prosciutto or bacon
- Nuts including almonds and macadamias
- Herbs and spices including basil, cloves, cardamom, tarragon and black pepper
- Spicy curries
This fruit is an all-rounder. When firm, nectarines are brilliant grated into muesli or even into sweet spring rolls with vanilla custard. They equally enjoy a little savoury application in salads and rice paper rolls as a substitute for pawpaw or green mango. On the sweet side, enjoy a matured fruit in ice cream smoothies, baked in cheesecakes or just straight into a fruit platter. Nectarines also work well with mature tasty cheese, and they love a good grilling with a touch of raw sugar.
Keep nectarines at room temperature to let them really develop a full flavour, but once they are ripe you need to eat them or place them in the fridge.
When buying nectarines, look out for excessive bruising and skin damage. Bruising will cause the fruit to ripen very quickly and spoil easily. Fruit should be bought firm and ripened at home or in the kitchen so you can control the rate at which this process occurs.
Julio Azzarello, Gourmand Providore Sydney Markets.