Peaches have been around for centuries and are the basis of the American classics - peach pie and fruit cocktail. The uses of the delicious fruit don't stop there. Originally from Asia, peaches and nectarines have taken root in the U.S. and are packed with 3 grams fiber per serving and beta-carotene for eye health.
Did you know peaches and nectarines are identical except for one recessive gene that makes the nectarine not fuzzy? In the wild, peaches may pop up on nectarine trees, and you may find nectarines on peach trees.
The word "nectarine" means sweet as nectar, and that is exactly what you will get when you bite into a sweet and juicy fruit. The key to the best nectarine or peach is to eat it when it is perfectly ripe. The fruits will naturally ripen on the counter; however, there may be times you want to speed up this process. The fastest way to ripen peaches and nectarines is to place them inside a brown paper bag and gently fold the top of the bag. Leave the bag partially open so air can circulate. Place the bag on the counter for a day or two for the fruit to ripen. If one to two days is too long, add a banana to the bag and check after three to four hours.
Once you have the perfect fruit, it's time to try something new:
Grill: Halve and pit; brush with olive oil. Place on the grill grates for 5 minutes.
Roasted: Halve and pit. Place cut-side-up in a pie dish. Drizzle with honey and cinnamon. Roast uncovered in the oven at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes.
Sandwich: Swap out the jelly and use sliced peaches or nectarines instead.
Nectarine and Prosciutto Salad
Serves 4 (about 2 cups each).
Active time: 20 minutes
Total: 20 minutes
Sweet ripe nectarines pair with peppery arugula and a hit of salty Parmesan and prosciutto in this outstanding side salad.
All you need
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 cups arugula, trimmed if necessary
2 ripe nectarines, cut into wedges
1/2 cup shaved Parmesan cheese
3 paper-thin slices prosciutto (about 2 ounces), torn into 2-inch strips
Freshly ground pepper, optional
All you do
Combine lemon juice, shallot, mustard, honey and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in oil until combined. Add arugula and toss to coat. Divide among four plates and top with equal portions of nectarine, Parmesan and prosciutto. Serve with a grinding of pepper on top, if desired.
Nutrition facts per serving: 212 calories, 15g fat, 4g saturated fat, 19mg cholesterol, 611mg sodium, 12g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 9g protein.
Daily values: 27% vitamin A, 22% vitamin C, 17% calcium.
Source: adapted from Eating Well, Inc.
Katie Wilhelmi is a registered dietitian at the Marshall Hy-Vee Food Store.