Summer is the season of stone fruits. Peaches, plums, and my current favorite – nectarines. I just love their tangy, juicy flavor (and the lack of fuzz on the skin).
Nectarines are such a heavenly refreshment on a hot summer day. Just imagine the cold, fresh juice dripping down your chin as you take that first delicious bite.
But biting into an unripe, hard, and flavorless nectarine is not my favorite thing. And more often than not, the nectarines at the local grocery store or fruit stand are not quite ripe yet. They feel hard and haven’t finished developing all their juicy goodness.
So I wondered, is there a way to ripen nectarines at home? I’ve done the research, and I’m here to share what I’ve found.
Stay tuned to find out how to get a perfectly ripe nectarine. Plus, 3 simple tips for ripening your nectarines faster.
How to Tell if a Nectarine is Ripe
Before learning the various ways to ripen your nectarines, you need to know how to tell if they are ripe to begin with.
Touch: Like most fruits, a ripe nectarine should have a little bit of give. Apply gentle pressure to the skin and your nectarine should be slightly soft.
Too soft might mean that the nectarine is overripe and mushy on the inside, but a little bit of squish, similar to that of an avocado at peak ripeness, means your nectarine is ready to eat!
Smell: Another way to tell if your nectarines are ready – if they give off a fragrant scent.
Nectarines are spoiled if they are too soft, have many dark spots, or start to ooze liquid. They’re also inedible if they have developed any mold or have an off smell.
How to Ripen Nectarines
If all the nectarines at the market are hard, you might be hesitant to purchase them. But think again, because there are a few easy ways to ripen your nectarines at home.
Store at Room Temperature
The simplest method is to leave your nectarines out on the counter at room temperature. This method works best if you’re not trying to eat your nectarines right away. It usually takes nectarines 2 to 3 days to ripen at room temperature.
You can also speed up the process by resting your nectarines in a spot where they will get a little bit of sunlight. But not too much or it might cause mushy spots!
Paper Bag Method
The second option is to store your nectarines in a paper bag. Like many other fruits, nectarines produce ethylene gas as they mature. A paper bag will trap the gas in, while keeping moisture out, which will help speed up the ripening process.
Adding a banana or an apple into the bag will help speed things up even more, since they give off high levels of the same natural gas. Leave your nectarines in the bag, in a dry area, for about 24 hours before checking them for softness. If they aren’t quite ready yet, check again tomorrow.
Wrap Them In a Napkin
The final way to ripen your nectarines is by wrapping them in a linen or cotton napkin. Lay out the napkin on a flat surface and place your fruit stem end down on the napkin. Space them apart so they don’t touch.
Place another napkin over them, tucking in the sides so air doesn’t get in. This method takes a little longer, 2 to 3 days minimum, but results in extra juicy nectarines.
After a few days, check your nectarines for softness and that lovely and fresh aroma, and enjoy!
How to Properly Store Nectarines
Store your nectarines on the counter if they are mostly ripe and ready to eat. They prefer being laid out on their shoulders and not their bottoms, and not stacked too much, or else they may bruise.
Don’t refrigerate your nectarines until they are ripe. Storing them in the fridge will slow down the ripening, so they will last about 3 to 5 days longer.
Keeping them in a plastic bag in the fridge will help produce the best results. Don’t store them for much longer than the five day window though, or they may lose some of their juiciness.
How to Freeze Nectarines
You can also freeze nectarines for later use. Wash, pit, and slice your nectarines to your preference or needs, and then toss them in a bowl of lemon juice to prevent them from browning.
Next roll your nectarines in some white sugar. This will help them keep their shape after defrosting. Freeze them on a baking sheet overnight so the slices don’t all stick together. Then store them in an airtight container or ziploc bag.
Nectarines can last in the freezer for up to a year, so you can enjoy the juicy taste of summer even in the frosty winter months.
Canning Your Nectarines
A third option is to can your nectarines. It’s a pretty simple process, especially if you’re familiar with canning.
Wash and slice your fruits, make a sugary syrup, and tightly pack them into jars. Remove the air bubbles with a utensil and leave a half inch of space at the top for expansion.
Place the jars in your water bath canner and boil. Most canned goods last about 2 years, so this is a great option if you buy a bunch of nectarines that are perfectly ripe. You’ll be able to have your favorite stone fruit any time of the year!