Meet the Honey Royale.
Honey Royale nectarine. It is not just another nectarine variety; not just another freestone fruit. This baby is so intensely sweet. My boys’ most desired fruit, the journey to purchasing our own tree was well, a bit comical. Okay, psychotic.
We met the Honey Royale at our local farmer’s market a few summers ago. They are low-acid, succulent, and sharpely sweet. Really, I’d have to whip out old SAT vocab books to think of enough adjectives to describe this variety’s sweetness. When we decided to redo our landscaping last year, there was no question we wanted our own Honey Royale. Except we couldn’t find it.
We spoke to the farmers who sold the fruit and discovered that agricultural genius Floyd Zaiger developed the Honey Royale. (Zaiger is responsible for introducing many of the delicious fruit varieties we see at farmer’s markets and supermarkets around the world in the last several decades.) The farmers who sold the fruit bought directly from Zaiger in Modesto, CA. Great, we thought. We’ll go get one. We called Zaiger and were told they didn’t sell to homegrowers directly and that we should check local nurseries.
Piece of cake, I thought. Except after calling a dozen local nurseries, we were told it was too rare a variety. So my determined husband (who, let me say, had no agricultural inclination prior to this) started saving Honey Royale pits, soaking them in water, and freezing them down in the refrigerator so we could plant them directly. There were so many pits they usurped the condiment shelf in our refrigerator door. How long would this process take? Years. Would it work? Crap-shoot.
I said we should forget it – FHE said no, we were committed to starting a garden and might as well plant the fruits and vegetables we want. Fine, I said. But I was unwilling to rely on the years-long process of starting from seed. So I continued calling nurseries all over the country. In the next month, I would call between 50 and 60 nurseries.
And then I found two. One nursery in California and another in South Carolina. South Carolina was unwilling to ship. So I called the nursery in California, about 3 1/2 hours away. They had 2 plants left. And they told me to drive a truck out there – they didn’t ship either. My husband’s response? “We can borrow Brian’s (our neighbor’s) truck and do the drive in a day. We’ll leave Rice Kernel with the grandparents.”
Suffice to say, I got back on the phone and convinced the nursery to wrap the 6 foot plant, find a box, drive it over to UPS, clear it with UPS, and then ship it overnight. It cost a pretty penny but, trust me, we did not care at this point.
When it arrived, the poor plant was shriveled. The landscapers accidentally hacked into the roots a bit and, for a few months, the dormant plant looked like it wouldn’t make it. I found all the necessary organic sprays, fertilizers, etc. imaginable. I called the nursery that sent us the plant and spoke with the owners about how to maintain it and what diseases to look for. I called them often. I did not want to screw this up.
Early this year flowers emerged and now there are 6 nectarines on our little tree. (There were 7 but one of the neighor’s kids came into the backyard and ripped one off. He said it was delicious and “super sweet like a mango.”) Not enough to skip the farmer’s market this year, but it looks like our little Honey Royale made it.
If that doesn’t convince you to find this delicious variety at your local farmer’s market, I don’t know what will. And while it’s unlikely we’ll be eating one of our six nectarines in any form other than it’s most natural state, I know I will be buying plenty of Honey Royales for jams and baked goods. First up, baked nectarines stuffed with macaroons, coconut, and chocolate. Nectarines are good on their own but just wait to see what happens to them in the oven. There’s no better way to celebrate summer and this Fourth of July Holiday.
Baked Nectarines Stuffed with Coconut and Chocolate, adapted from Gourmet Traveller Australia
2 oz dark chocolate (or milk), finely chopped
1/2 cup coconut macaroons, finely chopped
1/3 cup coconut
2 tbsp butter
1 egg yolk, lighty beaten
whipped cream to serve (optional)
- Cut nectarines in half and remove stones. Using a small sharp knife, cut away centers to make a shallow cavity approximately 3cm across, then finely chop pieces of nectarine flesh and reserve.
- Combine chocolate, macaroons, coconut and reserved nectarine flesh in a bowl, then stir in butter and egg yolk and combine well.
- Place nectarines, cut-side up, in a roasting pan and divide coconut mixture among cavities, mounding it slightly. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until nectarines are soft and filling is light golden. Serve nectarines, hot or warm, with optional whipped cream.