Here’s everything you need to know about storing and ripening nectarines. Learn when a nectarine is ripe and how to store and ripen nectarines at home.
Have you come home with a handful of nectarines and don’t know the best way to store them?
Or yours are quite firm and you’re wondering when nectarines ripen and how to speed up the process.
Does it look familiar? If so, this article is for you.
Let’s start by learning how to tell if a nectarine is ripe.
When are nectarines ripe?
A ripe nectarine is relatively firm, but gives slightly under light pressure and does not have a greenish tinge. If the fruit is super firm, it’s not ripe yet, and if it’s soft and almost mushy, it’s overripe and won’t keep long.
As for color, you should look for bright red to deep red nectarines, with some shades of yellow and orange. The exact hues and amount of red versus orange or yellow skin depends on the variety and when the fruit was picked, so it is better to focus on firmness.
You can eat underripe nectarines, but they won’t be especially sweet and juicy. Instead, they will taste sour and crunchy.
Nectarines ripen off the tree, and it’s best to let them ripen before eating, which is what I want to cover next.
How to ripen nectarines?
Nectarines are ripened by storing them in a dry place at room temperature until slightly softened.
To speed up that process, you can place the fruits in a brown bag and seal it. You can then add a couple of ethylene-producing fruits, like apples or ripening bananas, to that bag for even faster results.
As the nectarines ripen, check each one once a day and separate the ripe ones from the unripe ones.
Just like peaches or apricots, immature nectarines need a couple of days at room temperature on the counter until they’re ready. After 1-3 days, you should notice that they are not as firm anymore, and that is when they are ripe.
(Make sure all the fruit is slightly soft—a single tender spot does not mean the nectarine is done.)
Regarding the mechanics of maturation, everything depends on the concentration of ethylene gas. The more ethylene gas there is, roughly speaking, the sooner the nectarine will be ready to eat.
Methods to shorten the ripening time consist of getting more ethylene around the fruit. Thus, by storing nectarines in a paper bag, you trap the ethylene they release, increasing its concentration.
Placing another ethylene-producing fruit (for example, an apple or a banana) does the same thing.
Finally, do not use plastic bags to ripen the fruit. Sure they trap all the ethylene inside, but they also trap all the moisture, which, as you know, causes premature spoilage, especially at room temperature.
Now that you know all about ripening, it’s time to talk about storage.
How to store nectarines?
Store immature nectarines on the counter at room temperature until ripe. Once ripe, you can leave them out at room temperature for a day or two, or refrigerate them in a plastic bag or crisper drawer for 4-5 days.
When storing nectarines, keep the following rules in mind
- wash them before eating. If, for whatever reason, you have to wash the nectarines before storing them, make sure they are thoroughly dried.
- Store them away from smelly foods. We all keep some smelly foods in the fridge, so make sure your nectarines aren’t around if they’re not sealed in a plastic bag.
- Refrigerate only when ripe. If you don’t let your underripe nectarines ripen, they’ll stay sour and crunchy.
The same rules apply when storing apricots and when storing peaches.
Do nectarines need to be refrigerated?
Refrigerating the nectarines is not an obligation, but it is recommended because it extends their shelf life by a few days. Stored at room temperature, ripe nectarines will only keep for 1-2 days before becoming soft, while in the fridge they will last 3-5 days.
In other words, if you plan to eat the nectarines in a day or so, and they’re not too soft already, it’s okay to leave them on the counter.
If you store ripe nectarines on the counter, make sure they are in a cool, dry place, away from heat sources. And place them in a ventilated bag or fruit bowl so they can breathe and moisture can easily evaporate.
(And make sure nectarines stay away from ethylene-producing fruits and vegetables, of course.)
When you refrigerate the nectarines, place them in the crisper drawer or seal them in a plastic bag and keep them on a shelf in the fridge. Nectarines like humid environments, and both places keep them that way: the crisper drawer is usually the most humid place in the fridge, while the bag traps moisture from the nectarines.
Storing cut nectarines
Store cut nectarines in the fridge tightly closed in a freezer bag or airtight container. Stored this way, they will last up to 3-4 days if they are ripe and 1-2 days if they are already soft and a bit old.
How long do nectarines last?
|Nectarines, immature||1 – 3 days, until ripe|
|ripe nectarines||12 days||3 – 5 days|
|Nectarines, cut||up to 4 days|
Immature nectarines take 1-3 days to mature. Once ripe, the nectarines keep in the fridge for 3 to 5 days and only 1 to 2 days at room temperature.
If you need more time, you can freeze the nectarines or make nectarine jam.
As you can imagine, shelf life depends on the overall quality and ripeness of the nectarines.
The newly ripe ones easily keep in the fridge for 5, or even 7 days, before their quality deteriorates noticeably. But if you have bought yours already soft, the only thing you will get will be 1 to 3 days.
When you buy nectarines, choose them based on what you need at the time:
- choose the firm ones if you want them to last more than a couple of days
- take slightly soft nectarines if you want to eat them in the next few days
- grab soft overripe nectarines if they’re on sale and you want something to snack on right now or make cheap nectarine jam or bakery items
Finally, let’s talk about the signs of deterioration.
How to know if a nectarine is bad?
Throw away the nectarines that
- They are super soft, mushy or dripping. Nectarines start out firm and soften as they ripen, but if they’re soft and look and feel gross, they’re done.
- They are moldy or rotten. Mold is more likely on injured fruits, while rot is common on fruits stored at room temperature for too long. If only a small area of the nectarine is affected, you can probably cut it off, but it’s best to err on the side of caution and throw it away anyway.
- Have brown or translucent flesh. Stone fruits sometimes undergo internal decay that shows no change on the outside. So if when you open a nectarine you see that the pulp is brown or translucent, it has gone bad. If only a small area is affected, you can cut it out (with some extra).
- Smells bad. If your nectarines have a sour or musty aroma, and it’s not clear that one or two are bad, throw them all away, even if you don’t notice any other signs of spoilage. But if they smell like sausage sitting next to them, you probably haven’t sealed the bag well enough.
If you find anything else suspicious or strange, throw the nectarines away. It’s better to prevent than to cure.
When it comes to soft nectarines, it’s up to you when you throw them away. My way of proceeding is that if the fruit seems disgusting to me after picking it, it must be thrown away. But if it’s pretty soft but otherwise seems fine, I open it up.
If everything inside seems fine, or maybe there’s just a bit of translucency under the skin, I cut off the bad parts and use the rest.
What if the nectarines are too soft to chop or use in a salad, but not too bad to throw away?
Use them in the kitchen. Hundreds of recipes use nectarines, and that’s the easiest way to use up a bunch of nectarines that are nearing their shelf life.
Some examples are nectarine muffins, various quick breads, nectarine jam, and many others. And in the case of muffins and quick breads, you don’t even need a specific recipe: just slice up the nectarines and add them to the batter just before cooking.
Summary of the conservation and maturation of nectarines
Thanks for reading this short guide on nectarines. Let’s recap what we’ve covered:
- How do you know when a nectarine is ripe? A ripe nectarine gives slightly under light pressure. A ripe nectarine is slightly mushy, but that’s about it. If all the fruit is super soft, it’s overripe; if it is firm, it is yet to mature.
- How to ripen nectarines? Ripen the nectarines on the counter at room temperature. If you want to speed up the process, put the fruits in a brown bag and perhaps add an apple or banana for a little more ethylene.
- How to store nectarines? Leave immature nectarines at room temperature until ripe. Once ripe, you can leave them on the counter for a day or refrigerate them for up to 5 days.
- How long do they last? Nectarines take 1-3 days to ripen. Once ripe, they last 3-5 days refrigerated and up to 2 days on the counter. Nectarines at their peak of ripeness keep longer than soft, overripe ones.