By David Whitney, Produce Buyer, Co-op Owner
Stone fruit season is right around the corner. Stone fruit is typically grown in the U.S. and Canada from late May to early October. Options include; peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines and cherries. Members of the genus Prunus, stone fruits have been cultivated in the North America for hundreds, perhaps even thousands of years. Specialty varieties of these fruits are available, too and are among the most delectable fruits of Summer. Pluots and Apriums are relatively new varieties that are the result of cross breeding plums and apricots during differing parts of the growth process. These inter-specific plum hybrids may also be called plumcots or apriplums. Regardless of phraseology, they’re delicious!
Stone fruit is a common name for fruits that contain a stone, or pit, at the center of the fruit. They’re great to eat out of hand, but they’re also superb in an abundance of sweet and savory recipes like salads, sangrias, and, of course, pies and cobblers.
Most peaches, plums, and nectarines are picked before they’re fully ripe to prevent bruising in transport. Look for fruit that is firm to the touch without brown spots or wrinkling. Take a sniff, too – peaches, plums, and nectarines should smell as delicious as you’d expect them to taste.
Leave stone fruits out at room temperature for a day or two to ripen; they’re ready when slightly tender to the touch – a firm press with your finger near the stem end should leave a slight dent. Once they’re ripe, store stone fruits in your refrigerator, in the crisper drawer, uncovered and unwashed, for up to five days.
Wash stone fruits in cold water before using. To pit the fruit, slice through the flesh along the seam and in a full circle around the stone; then twist in opposite directions to separate the halves. Carefully remove the stone with a knife end.
Stone fruits can also be classified as either freestone or clingstone. A freestone peach is one where the flesh (mesocarp) separates from the stone (endocarp). When the fruit is cut in half, there is an easy separation at the pit and the pit can be removed by hand. It may even fall out if you tip the fruit over. Freestone peaches are popular for home canning because of their ease of preparation. Clingstone peaches have flesh that clings to the stone. When the fruit is cut in half, it is very difficult to separate the two halves because the flesh is stuck in the pit. For commercial canning, machines are used to cut/separate the fruit from the stone.
Take advantage of the season and try all of the varieties available, you may just find a new favorite fruit!