Fantasia is by far the overwhelming favourite with some 120,000 trees (compared to 9,000 three years ago) under cultivation. Harblaze is the next major variety with 10,000 trees.
Fantasia has firm yellow flesh; the skin is bright red over a yellow background. It's of excellent eating quality, has an intense flavour and is considered large in size.
Harblaze is medium to large with yellow flesh and 70 to 80 per cent red skin. It ripens in mid-August and is available earlier than the Fantasia variety.
One medium size nectarine (130 g/13 oz) has 67 calories, is a source of Vitamins A and C, and potassium.
A close relative of the peach, nectarines are believed to have originated in China. They went to Europe via China and Persia in the 16th century and recently came to North America.
Originally white-fleshed, nectarines have interbred with peaches so that today the flesh is bright yellow-orange.
Genetically, the nectarine character is due to a single recessive gene in its parent, the peach.
Buying and storing
Ripe nectarines should be plump, firm (but not rock hard), relatively heavy with smooth skin. Look for bright colour and a sweet and fruity scent. They should give slightly to fingertip pressure, especially along the seam.
Slight under-ripe nectarines should finish ripening within 2-3 days at moderate room temperature, out of direct sunlight.
Refrigerate ripe nectarines in a single layer. They're best eaten within a week.
Give them a quick rinse under cool running water prior to use.
Most are eaten whole and raw with the skin. But they are also good sliced as a topping for cereal, pancakes or ice cream, as a partner to yogurt, in mixed fruit pies, in rice and chicken salads, in sandwiches or as a base for chutney.
They may be preserved or frozen in the same fashion as fresh peaches.