The nectarine's flesh is sweet, succulent and firmer than that of its relative, the peach. When ripe, its smooth skin is a brilliant golden yellow with generous blushes of red. Nectarines are available from midspring to late September with a peak during July and August. Look for fragrant, brightly colored fruit that gives slightly to the touch. Avoid those with bruises or other blemishes as well as those that are hard or overly green. Slightly underripe nectarines can be left to ripen at room temperature for a couple of days. Ripe fruit should be refrigerated and used within 5 days. They're wonderful eaten out of hand and can be used in salads, a variety of fresh and cooked desserts and as a garnish for many hot and cold dishes. Nectarines contain a fair amount of vitamins A and C.