Apricots & Nectarines
Stone fruit is really only just getting started and the early new season fruit can be a little tart until all that glorious sunshine has been absorbed.
This year we have focused on varietals and getting to know the many different types on offer – no longer is an apricot just an apricot!
We’ve learnt a lot from listening to our growers and why they choose certain varieties due to region, taste and even colour. This month we’ll tell you all about apricots and nectarines.
The main growing regions are Nelson, Marlborough and Central Otago in the South Island and the Hawke’s Bay in the North Island. Those long sunshine hours and dry weather make for glorious apricots. As a high source of vitamins A and C, they ripen on the tree, so later picking is important for their flavour to develop. We at Farro have to be extra-careful about how we stack and store apricots, but the same goes for you at home.
Some golden rules to get the best from your apricots:
- Eat as soon after buying as you can – don’t leave fruit sitting for too long.
- Refrigerate for a day or two only, and as they enjoy a bit of humidity do that in a plastic bag. If your fridge is too cold, it will kill the flavour completely, so above 8C is important.
- Apricots taste much better when eaten at room temperature, so take them out of the fridge to warm up before you eat them.
- Air circulation is important and if you are leaving them at room temperature for a few days, ensure they have enough fresh air by not having them piled up in a small bowl – give them room to breathe.
- Only wash your fruit when you are about to eat it – not before.
- Older fruit, which may be a touch mushy, is perfect cooked up into jam or just stewed for general eating.
Sundrop is grown in both North and South Islands and is an early-season apricot starting in December and only available until late January. With a classic apricot colouring, they are also very juicy.
Moorpark and Trevatt are two heritage breed varieties that are not seen often now, but are available from mid-January to late February. Moorpark is a classic Central Otago apricot and is well-loved for jam and bottling.
Clutha Gold came along in the late 1980s and is a cross-breed of Sundrop and Moorpark apricots. A great export apricot, they are well established in the market and offer a medium-large, golden apricot with a slightly glossy skin. Ripening from the inside out, they have good flavour and store well.
Appearing from November until March each year, the shiny-skinned nectarine is the gold of summer. Grown in Central Otago in the South Island and the Hawke’s Bay in the north, they contain high levels of vitamin C, potassium and calcium. They also are rich in bioactive disease-preventing compounds, phenol acids, anthocyanins and flavonoids.
They have a firm but juicy texture and will ripen once picked but, will not develop further sweetness at all, so certain varieties are better than others if you are craving that true sweetness of summer sunshine that nectarines can give.
Yellow-fleshed varieties – such as Redgold, Red and Rose – have brilliantly coloured skin but Spring Bright is the best cooking and eating variety.
The white-fleshed varieties such as Pearl are sweet and have low acid; these are best in January and February. Overall, white-fleshed nectarines are delicately sweet as opposed to their yellow-fleshed cousins, which have a more flavourful tang.
Like apricots, there are some important storage points to note:
- To ripen, leave at room temperature for a few days or pop into a bag with an apple or banana, and you’ll have ripe fruit faster.
- Eat as you buy – don’t store your fruit too long.
- Not only is refrigeration under 8C a killer for flavour, but it will also ruin the texture of nectarines. Like apricots, they can be stored in the fridge, but like a touch of humidity, so keep them in plastic bags.
- For more flavour, always allow your fruit to come back to room temperature before eating.
- Allow space for air to circulate around fruit if they are ripening at room temperature.
- Only wash fruit just before eating.