Spectacular Stone Fruits
Nothing says summer quite like the sweet, juicy flavours of stone fruits. Whether you prefer peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots or cherries — or any of their hybrids — act quickly: Unlike apples or pears, fresh stone fruits don't store well.
"Stone fruit" is more of a culinary term than a botanical one. It comes from the stone-hard covering found around the single large seed at the fruit's core. The stone supports the fruit as it hangs off the tree branch by its stem and provides a passage for nutrients to flow from the tree to the growing fruit.
Peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums and their hybrids are best ripened at room temperature, stem-end down. Don't refrigerate fruit before it's ripe, or it may develop unappetizing wrinkled skin and mealy flesh. Ripe fruit is soft, has a sweet aroma and can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. Cherries are ready to eat when purchased and can be kept in the refrigerator, loosely covered, for up to three days.
Stone fruits are delicious simply eaten as is, when they're at their peak of ripeness. But they also can be roasted, poached or sautéed, baked into pies and crumbles, tossed into salads, made into jams or used as a sauce or topping for both savoury and sweet dishes.
Apricots are packed with vitamin A and rich in pectin, which provides their creamy texture when eaten ripe and their meatiness when dried. This delicate fruit is most often canned or dried. Dried apricots often are treated with sulphur dioxide to help preserve their naturally light color. Unsulfured apricots are browner with a slightly cooked taste.
Cherries are a great source of vitamin C, potassium, fibre, carotenoids, and anthocyanin. Since they must be picked ripe, cherries are a fragile crop.
Genetically speaking, nectarines and peaches are not very different, except nectarines have a smooth skin while peaches have fuzz. Like peaches, a nectarine's flesh may be white or yellow. Filled with vitamin C, beta-carotene and vitamin a, they are the perfect addition to Summer salads or healthy deserts.
Peaches come in clingstone and freestone varieties. As the name implies, a clingstone's fruit doesn't fall off its pit, making it fine for eating but a chore for slicing. However, a freestone's fruit easily separates from its pit. Peaches offer a rich treasure of minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, manganese, phosphorous, zinc, and copper.
Fresh plums are a great source of vitamin c, while dried plums - known as prunes provide fibre and vitamin a.