Nothing says summertime quite like biting into cherry pie, freshly made peach salsa or a ripe plum on a hot day. Comprising some of our favorite juicy delights, stone fruits — whose name refers to the stone-like hard covering around a single large seed and fleshy exterior — are one of the many reasons we love summer. Find out more stone fruit facts, plus how to enjoy these end-of-season rock stars.
STONE FRUIT FACTS
1. There are many kinds, and lots of ways to eat them.
Grilled, baked or eaten fresh, stone fruits are tasty in every form. They aren’t limited to just one type, so there’s something out there for everyone. The five most popular kinds are below:
Peaches: These fuzzy-skinned fruits are juicy and sweet and come in many varieties. Classic uses for ripe peaches include peach cobbler, pie, salsa and chutneys. Peaches are also delicious cooked; grilling or poaching them helps enhance the natural sugars to make them even sweeter.
Nectarines: Like peaches, nectarines are available in both white and yellow varieties. But although they may look a lot like their peach brethren, nectarines are actually less sweet (not to mention fuzzless). Nectarines add wonderful flavor to baked dishes such as cakes and bread puddings. For a savory take, nectarines make Caprese salads even better and are a delicious topping for bruschetta in the summer.
Apricots: Both sweet and tart in flavor, apricots are orange in color and are a great source of Vitamin C. Apricots are commonly used in jams and pies and also taste great combined with chicken or duck for a savory dish. Relatively small in size and firm when ripe, they travel well — a good snack option for throwing into a cooler for a beach or camping trip.
Plums: Plums come in a variety of colors including red, blue and purple and have a smooth skin and sweet or tart flavors. Their gorgeous color and firm texture stand up to baking temperatures, making them an ideal choice for tarts. Plum sauces — deep and flavorful — are also commonly used to add richness to entrees like duck, as well as many Asian dishes
Cherries: These are among the smallest members of the stone fruit family and pack a huge punch in both taste and nutrition. Available in both red and white colors, cherries are known for their tart and sweet taste and are a versatile ingredient for desserts like pie, muffins, biscotti and even as a luscious fruit topping for ice cream.
2. They’re great in summer drinks.
Summertime wouldn’t be complete without refreshing drinks, and stone fruits can add delicious seasonal twists. Try one or a combination of the fruits above in red or white sangria for a delicious blend of flavors. Cherries and plums complement red sangria well, and apricots and nectarines are perfect with white.
Swap out your go-to mimosa at brunch for a bellini instead. This Italian cocktail combines Prosecco and peach nectar to add a perfectly sweet and refreshing twist to any occasion. Singapore slings, a classic gin cocktail, can be lightened up with tart cherry syrup in the summer. And as the warmer months wind down, sip on a Whiskey Peach Smash to enjoy the flavors of summer and fall in one glass.
3. The sweet health benefits are a tasty bonus.
Enjoy these sweet, summery fruits without guilt thanks to their numerous health benefits, including providing plenty of vitamins A and C, fiber and potassium. Vitamin C improves skin and promotes a healthy immune system, vitamin A is great for healthy vision, and fiber helps improve digestion. Snack on a plum to get a healthy dose of vitamin C or enjoy a bowl of cherries for a rich source of antioxidants. And while bananas may get all the attention as a solid, fruit-based source of potassium, just two small peaches have the equivalent amount to support muscle function and mobility.
4. They won’t be around for long.
Unlike other types of fruit that are grown and readily available year round, stone fruits thrive in warm climates — so get ‘em while it’s hot!
These beauties take time to blossom and grow on trees and have a hard time surviving harsh winters. Stone fruits are harvested almost entirely from June to September, with July and August being the peak months to find them at their ripest, brightest best. And you’d better eat them right away! Cherries don’t ripen after being picked, so they tend to taste best within the first few days after picking. Peaches, plums and nectarines should be eaten in the (short) window when they feel neither too firm or soft. So before the summer’s out, take our advice and grab all the stone fruits you can!
Contributed by Priya Barua