The Nectarine, though differing somewhat in appearance and flavor, is actually of the same species as the Peach, Prunus persica, and has been known in the Old World for more than 2000 years. It originated as a natural mutation of the Peach and occasionally in peach orchards a tree will develop which produces nectarines. The Nectarine is one of the most interesting phenomena in horticulture. The trees may grow from peach pits and peach trees may grow from nectarine pits. Peach trees produce nectarine fruits by bud mutation and nectarine trees produce peach fruits by the same mutations. Also, both the peach and nectarine trees can produce individual fruits that are part Nectarine and part Peach.
Nectarine Culture and Adaptation
The Nectarine is grown wherever the Peach is grown and the culture is the same for both. Trees and blossoms of the Nectarine are indistinguishable from those of the Peach. All cultural procedures recommended for the Peach apply to the Nectarine.
Modern varieties of nectarines are the result of controlled breeding and the fruits are far superior to those that appeared early in the history of the industry. All major varieties are self-fruitful and so do not require cross-pollination. The breeding program at the Va. Agricultural Experiment Station has produced ‘Lexington’, ‘Redchier’, ‘Cavalier’, ‘Pocahontas’, ‘Cherokee’ and ‘Redbud’. The N.J. Agricultural Experiment Station produced a series of white-fleshed varieties called ‘Nectarese’, ‘Neetaheart’, ‘Neetacrest’ and ‘Nectalate’ and, more recently, a yellow-fleshed series called the ‘Neetaree.’ Private breeders in Calif. have developed excellent varieties and the N.Y. Experiment Station is presently developing new varieties. Modern nectarine varieties are larger than those developed a few years ago and are more resistant to attacks of brown rot fungus. One old variety from Europe is ‘Rivers Orange’ and, although it is small, the excellent dessert quality keeps it on the nursery list.
Nectarine fruits must be thinned heavily to attain good size and flavor. The fruits must be spaced at least 8 in. apart and, as with the Peach, the thinning should be completed no later than the period of final fruit drop which occurs about a month after bloom.
The Nectarine softens rapidly and is best if picked while in a firm condition. If allowed to soften on the tree, the fruit will bruise easily and become mushy and difficult to handle. When picked in a firm-ripe condition the fruit handles easily and will ripen to a soft condition, with excellent quality, within a day or two.
Nectarine Pest Control
The smooth skin of the Nectarine makes it more vulnerable to insect and disease attacks than the Peach. It is much like the Plum in this respect, but with modern materials and varieties, the control of pests is much more satisfactory than was the case previously. As with the Peach and all other stone fruits, the Nectarine is subject to borer attacks in the trunk at the soil line.