Gave my neighbor some Snow Queen nectarines from our tree the other day and she sent me this text: “Greg, those nectarines were by far the most delicious things we have had in our entire life.”

Now, my neighbor is really friendly, and maybe she just wanted to emphasize gratitude, but I was eating one the other day — juice dripping on my toes — and was also thinking, “These Snow Queens are out of this world right now! I have to write a profile post on this variety.”

Harvest season

This year, the Snow Queen harvest is peaking here in early to mid July, but this is slightly later than usual. Late June to early July is the usual.

To put the Snow Queen harvest season in context, I can say that they are later than the Eva’s Pride peaches in my yard, slightly later than the Blenheim apricots; and Snow Queen nectarines are slightly earlier than Splash pluots, almost a month earlier than Red Baron peaches.

In fact, I’ve got a few branches of Red Baron grafted onto my Snow Queen tree so you can easily see the difference in maturity between those two.

Red Baron peaches still green when Snow Queen nectarines are at peak maturity.

(See where the Snow Queen harvest fits in among many other deciduous fruit trees in the Dave Wilson Nursery Harvest Chart.) 

Tree characteristics

Snow Queen bears attractive pink blossoms in the spring, but these do not match the showy double flowers of Red Baron (which open earlier than Snow Queen despite the Snow Queen fruit’s earlier maturity, oddly).

Fat Red Baron blossoms on right side of tree, waning as Snow Queen’s pink flowers begin opening.

Snow Queen nectarine trees don’t need much chilly weather in the winter in order to flower and fruit well. My tree located in the foothills of San Diego County has performed fairly consistently over the past seven years. I’ve seen Snow Queen trees in warmer locations closer to the ocean fruiting well also. One nursery grower of Snow Queen trees lists the chill hours needed for this variety at 250, and most Southern California locations at least a couple miles away from the coast average that many or more.

However, I wasn’t convinced my Snow Queen was a keeper during its first couple years because many of its nectarines split on the young tree.

Snow Queen nectarine tree at two years old.

Now, in all years but those with the warmest and wackiest winters, my mature Snow Queen nectarine tree has been a reliable producer of unsplit, high-quality fruit.

Here’s the tree today, at seven years old.

(My tree is on Nemaguard rootstock, by the way.)

A Snow Queen nectarine tree is similar to almost every other nectarine tree in that it will fruit without any other fruit trees nearby. It’s self-fertile, as they say.

Strengths and weaknesses

I have seen many other varieties of peaches and nectarines in my yard get peach leaf curl worse than the Snow Queen. Not that the Snow Queen is immune, but it certainly isn’t as susceptible as many other varieties.

While the Blenheim apricot next to my Snow Queen nectarine gets some sunburn on its fruit if we have an early summer heat wave, the Snow Queens never do. Snow Queen seems like a tree that would possibly even suit a desert location.

Fruit in lots of sun, but no sunburn.

On the other hand, Snow Queen fruit do tend to have some blemishes, primarily skin-deep blemishes. For example, they get bronze speckling that is sometimes so heavy as to be more like russeting. Fortunately, this doesn’t affect the fruit’s interior.

Speckles on Snow Queen skin.

Like other nectarines, Snow Queens do get some scarring from Western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis) — worse in some years, very little here in 2021. I don’t do anything to try to control this, as there is always enough fruit on the tree to just thin those with a lot of thrips scarring, as it is occasionally so bad as to deform fruit. (See the UC IPM page on Western flower thrips management on nectarines.)

Thrips scarring on Snow Queen nectarine.

I get a lot of doubles and spurs on my Snow Queen in some years, where two fruit grow connected near the stem. But again, because the tree is so productive I can usually thin these doubles and spurs and still have more wholesome fruit on each branch than it can handle so it’s not a significant problem.

Double fruit on Snow Queen nectarine.

(It is written in The Home Orchard that doubles and spurs are caused by high temperatures during the previous summer.)

Eating qualities

When the background color of a Snow Queen nectarine turns from green to white, it’s ready to pick, and if you let it go all the way white, even cream colored, then it’s the juiciest piece of fruit you can ask for. It can be like biting into an extremely sweet water balloon.

Very ripe (tree ripened) Snow Queen nectarines.

But what I like about the sweetness of Snow Queen is that it always retains a bite, a tang in the background such that it’s not a bland sugariness. Snow Queen has a rich, rounded flavor.

(Stick your head into a Snow Queen tree and you can smell the same aroma.)

The interior of the fruit is nearly white, and the flesh comes off the seed pretty well. I’ll call it semi-freestone.

History

Snow Queen is not a new, untested nectarine variety. It was introduced half a century ago by Armstrong Nurseries of Ontario in San Bernardino County. (All of us in Southern California know Armstrong — none of us live far from an Armstrong Garden Center today.)

Snow Queen has proven itself worth growing in my yard and in many other yards in our region. As with any variety, Snow Queen is not perfect, but I appreciate my tree more as the years pass. As do my neighbors.

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