Stone Fruit Guide
Juicy peaches, succulent apricots, luscious plums, cherries and nectarines allow you to savor the essence of summer out-of-hand. These stone fruits are generally low in calories and offer a nice helping of vitamins and nutrients. Bake them into a pie or tart, add slices to your morning yogurt, experiment with them in savory dishes or merely eat them on the go, juice running down your chin. Here's a guide to picking and storing the best of summer's stone fruit.
What Is Stone Fruit?
Stone fruit (or drupe) is a type of fruit with a thin skin that covers a fleshy outer area surrounding a seed large enough to be called a pit or stone. These fleshy fruits like peaches, nectarines and plums are part of the genus Prunus. You can find most of them at the farmers' market or grocery store starting in April through fall.
Pictured Recipe: Apricot Grunt
Apricot season is fleeting, so scoop up these low-calorie, nutrient-dense fruits when you can. Three fresh apricots (50 calories) provide 40 percent of the recommended Daily Value for vitamin A, a nutrient that helps keep eyes healthy. Apricots also deliver vitamin C and potassium, nutrients associated with keeping your immune system and blood pressure healthy, respectively.
Good to know: Purchase plump, fairly firm apricots that are orange-yellow to orange. Ripe apricots are soft and juicy-they should be eaten as soon as possible and stored in the refrigerator.
Pictured Recipe: No-Bake Cherry Cheesecake
Scoop up a handful of sour or sweet cherries for a summer treat that's a good source of vitamin C. One cup (measured with pits) provides 16 percent of the Daily Value of vitamin C and delivers 3 grams of fiber, for just 87 calories.
Good to know: Sweet-cherry varieties include Bing, Rainier and Lambert. Sour cherries, which are too tart to eat out-of-hand, are most often used as pie filling. Select cherries that are firm, plump and shiny without soft spots or bruising. Store fresh cherries in the refrigerator as soon as possible after purchase.
Pictured Recipe: Peach-Blackberry Compote with Basil Syrup
Peaches are packed with natural goodness. One medium peach (58 calories) delivers 17 percent of the Daily Value of vitamin C as well as some vitamin A and potassium.
Good to know: Choose peaches with a "peachy" scent, slightly sweet and flowery. Ripe peaches will give a little when gently pressed. The red or blush color on the skin is a characteristic of variety, not ripeness. Avoid any peaches that are overly green-they were picked too early and won't ripen properly. Never squeeze peaches, as they will bruise. Ripen peaches in a single layer (not stacked) on the counter. Once ripe, transfer peaches to the refrigerator and use within a week.
Pictured Recipe: Nectarine & Prosciutto Salad
Peaches and nectarines are sometimes confused (for good reason). They are varieties of the same species–but a nectarine's smooth skin differentiates it from its fuzzy look-alike. Nectarines are a good source of vitamin C-a medium one delivers 13 percent of the Daily Value-plus potassium and vitamin A, all for just 62 calories.
Good to know: Pick fragrant nectarines that give when squeezed. Don't go by color, as many varieties look red before they're ripe. Ripen nectarines in a brown bag on the counter.
Pictured Recipe: Honey-Lavender Plum Gratin
"Plum" is often used to describe a deep purple hue, but in fact plums come in many colors, such as black, yellow, red, pink, even green. Dark plums (purple, black) are full of antioxidants that give them their color and are associated with helping to keep the heart healthy and the brain sharp. In season from late spring to early fall, one medium plum has only 58 calories. Derived from plums and apricots, pluots and plumcots are other types of stone fruits you might enjoy.
Good to know: Plums have a natural whitish-silvery wax coating called a "bloom" that protects their skin and keeps it from losing water. Look for the bloom: it's also a sign a plum hasn't been overhandled. Store ripe plums in the refrigerator.
Raspberries and Blackberries
Pictured Recipe: Raspberry-Oatmeal Wedges
While we think of raspberries and blackberries as berries (it's in the name, after all), they're actually stone fruits. Those tiny orbs packed with juice have itty bitty seeds inside–that makes them aggregates of drupelets. That just means the tiny fruits grow so closely together that they make up what we think of as the fruit.
Good to know: When you bring your raspberries or blackberries home from the grocery store, don't rinse them under running water. The delicate skin breaks easily under the flow from the faucets–instead, soak them briefly in a bowl of cool water.