Last night I had a customer that messaged us via Facebook. She was wondering if we still had peaches. Unfortunately we are out, but we do have nectarines. Did you know that nectarines are just peaches with their fuzz shaved off? Really! We have a crew locked in a back room at Bob’s equipped with razors. Not buying it? Me neither. However, genetically speaking, it isn’t that far from the truth.
The main physical difference is that peaches have a fuzzy coating, whereas nectarines are smooth and do not have this coating. They are almost identical genetically, but there is a gene variant between the two.
Peaches have a dominant allele (variant form of a gene), which results in the soft, fuzzy coating on the outside. They can be freestone, which means the pit falls easily away from the flesh, or clingstone, where the pits stay stuck to the flesh. Peaches can come in yellow or white varieties.
Nectarines, however, express a recessive gene that results in no fuzz growth on the outside, and smooth skin. They tend to be smaller, firmer, and more aromatic than peaches, but they can also be more susceptible to diseases. Like peaches, they can be freestone or clingstone, and they also come in white and yellow varieties.
These differences between peaches and nectarines are really quite subtle. When cooking with them, they can be used interchangeably. While some claim that nectarines are juicier and sweeter, I really haven't found that to be consistently true. So the differences between the two tends to be a bit … fuzzy.