The sweet life
An acquaintance once asked her boyfriend to pick up some nectarines, but he brought back peaches. When asked why, he said he couldn't tell the difference. But it seems so obvious: peaches have soft, downy skin like that of an adolescent boy, while the skin of nectarines is smooth.
Other than that, they're quite similar. Like a peach, a nectarine can be crunchy or soft and juicy; with pale or deeply yellow-orange flesh; and clingstone or freestone. The best way to tell if nectarines are ripe is by smell: the fruit should be fragrant while also feeling heavy for its size. Its skin should be smooth and unwrinkled, although bird pecks are not such a bad thing (except aesthetically) as birds are usually quite good at selecting the sweetest fruit on a tree.
Nectarines make a delicious pie, and I like to combine them with fresh raspberries for colour contrast and because the flavours pair well. Use freestone nectarines, if possible (clingstones are okay, but harder to cut into neat pieces). Cut the nectarines in wedges and mix with sugar (granulated or soft brown), fresh lemon juice and just enough cornstarch to thicken the juices.
Gently mix in the raspberries and scrape the mixture into an unbaked pie shell. Roll out more pie dough, cut into long strips and create a lattice pattern over the fruit. Press the strips firmly onto the bottom crust then crimp the edges. Brush the lattice with beaten egg, sprinkle lightly with sugar then bake at 200 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 180 degrees and bake until the crust is fully cooked and the juices of the filling are bubbling. Serve warm or cool.