Historical Controversies of Nectarine Nomenclature- Prunus persica nectarina
The question of when history on nectarines began cannot be answered properly and with any certainty. Efforts to do this by some websites that suggest that nectarine Prunus persica nectarina history should begin in China in 2000 BC to correspond with the history of the peach is absurd for several reasons, unless it is assumed that a nectarine is a cultivar (variety) of a peach. In American agricultural and commercial fruit circles, the nectarine fruit is treated as a separate species from peach, because of the wider possibilities in contrasting a few of the desirable characteristics of each fruit in a marketing campaign to sell more products. Many mischaracterizations of the nectarine development jump up before us to confuse and disorient potential buyers, such as the nectarine profile: promoted as resulting from a cross between a plum and a peach that is patently false. Nectarine fruit also has been described as a fuzzless peach, or as a mutation of a peach that may mutate back to a nectarine and then again mutate back to the peach. Even though the word ‘nectarine’ was first used in England in 1616, there is no conclusive evidence that the usage of the word derived from the Greek word meaning nectar, can be properly applied to the same English fruit that science describes today as the nectarine. It is true that Darwin noticed that a few nectarines might randomly occur on peach trees. He also noted that nectarine grafts from these trees would revert to produce peaches identical to the fruit grown from the original, mother peach tree. The instability of this back and forth process of gaining fuzz and losing fuzz stretches the truthfulness in labeling the nectarine as a genuine mutation. It has been theorized that the nectarine tree has arisen from a simple recessive gene; however, this theory also is wobbley, if one considers present understanding of Mendelian genetic mechanisms.
Luther Burbank in his book, Fruit Improvement published in 1921, claimed that the ancient ancestor of the wooly peach developed fuzz in an environment as peculiarly stressful regarding moisture, wind, sunshine, insect, and fungus presence, “the fuzz evolved as a protection against those enemies,” and thus, the peach was preserved, but the nectarine fruit with a smoother skin was destroyed as in the example of evolutionary concept of survival of the fittest.
Burbank successfully hybridized a nectarine with an almond in an attempt to create a nectarine type pulp and a pit with the edible desirability quality of almond nuts. The bitter taste of the plum pit was supposedly replaced with the nutty flavor of commercial almonds.
Nectarine fruit can be colored white, yellow, orange, or red and the pulp also exhibits these colorations. Nectarine colors are brighter than those seen in peaches, because the fuzz on the peach tends to dilute the bright color of the skin below. Nectarines when compared to peaches are smaller, rounder, sweet or more acidic, and denser. Nectarines are more susceptible to disease rot and bruising presumably, because the fuzz offers a buffer zone of protection to the peach. Nectarines have a richer flavor and are more aromatic than peaches, because they are grown as freestone cultivars, which show these same contrasting differences from peaches, which are principally grown as clingstone fruits for American markets.
Nectarine trees and nectarine fruit are indistinguishable from peaches in all parts phenotypically, except for the presence of the fuzz. Nectarines could more appropriately be described as a fuzzless cultivar of peaches, Prunus persica nectarina. The nectarine fruit is most often eaten with the tender skin on it, and it ripens mostly in June through September. Most of the national production of nectarines comes from California with 95% of the production, but recently orchards of new nectarine cultivars are being established in Georgia and in South Carolina. The nectarine ripe fruit will keep for up to 5 days in the coldest part of a refrigerator. The nectarine can be judged ripe, when it is fragrant and soft to the touch on the tree.
The nectarine is loaded with health benefits, such as antioxidants, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, and Potassium.
By Pat Rick