Stone fruits are fruits with a stone, or pit, at the centre surrounded by soft, juicy flesh and a thin outer skin. The seed of the parent plant is contained within the pit, and is distributed with the help of animals, who take the fruit away to eat. This means that stone fruits have evolved to be particularly tempting in order to attract the attention of passing animals. They often have eye-catching colours, a delicious fragrance, and, of course, a mouthwatering flavour.
There are many different types of stone fruit, most of which are available as either ‘clingstone’ or ‘freestone’ varieties, which refers to how easy their stones are to remove. Stone fruits are at their best when they’re in season, but if you can’t wait a year for your favourite, there are several ways to preserve them, including drying, freezing and canning.
Find out more about stone fruit with our guide to some of the most popular.
Known for their fuzzy skin and nectar-like fragrance, peaches are one of the most popular varieties of stone fruit. They are available in yellow or white varieties, and can be grilled, baked in cobblers and pies, or made into a Peach Bellini cocktail.
Thought to be one of the first fruits domesticated by humans, plums come in many different varieties, including black, red and yellow varieties. They have a smooth, shiny skin and flesh that’s bursting with juice, and are popular both in desserts and savoury dishes.
Cherries are famous for being the finishing touch on top of ice cream sundaes and cocktails, but they’re also perfect for making clafoutis, Black Forest gateaux, and of course, cherry pie. They are available in sweet varieties, for snacking, and sour varieties, which are primarily used in baking.
Raspberries may not be the first fruit that comes to mind when discussing stone fruit, but in fact each raspberry is a cluster of tiny stone fruits, which is what gives them their characteristically knobbly appearance. Much loved for their sweet taste, they are often paired with chocolate to make indulgent desserts.
Like raspberries, blackberries are also made up of tiny clusters of miniature stone fruits. They can often be seen growing wild in hedgerows, and blackberry picking is a popular custom for the short time that they’re in season. Blackberries are popular additions to smoothies, and are often paired with apples in pies and crumbles.
Known for their attractive orange-yellow colour, apricots have a smooth, creamy flesh with a tart flavour. They are naturally high in pectin, which makes them perfect for jam-making, and they are also popular as a dried fruit.
With their sunny yellow colour and sweet, tropical taste, mangoes are popular in smoothies, tropical juice mixes, and lassi. They can also be eaten fresh, in fruit salads, or made into mango chutney.
Lychees have a striking appearance, with a bumpy, reddish-pink skin and translucent white flesh. The skin is tougher than that of other stone fruits, and is usually peeled away. They have a delicate flavour, which has been described as a cross between a grape and a pear, and are often used in desserts and cocktails.
How to tell if it’s ripe
Signs that a stone fruit is ready to eat will vary by fruit, but in general, they should be a vibrant colour, without any hint of green, and give slightly when you squeeze them. Peaches and mangoes will have a wonderfully fragrant smell when they are ripe, so you’re likely to find yourself naturally drawn to them when they’re ready.
What is the season for stone fruits?
Again, this varies depending on the fruit. Cherries are the first stone fruits to become available, in early spring, followed by plums, which are in season all the way through from spring to early fall. Peaches and mangoes are available from midsummer to the beginning of fall, while blackberries are only in season for about a month at the end of the summer.
If you have stone fruit that you’ve purchased to ripen at home, leave it out on the counter until it’s fully ripe, then transfer it to the fridge. Once ripe, most stone fruit will keep for 3 to 5 days if refrigerated. Cherries do not continue ripening once harvested, so make sure they feel fully ripe when you buy them, and put them in the fridge as soon as you get them home. For maximum flavour, allow your fruit to return to room temperature before you eat it.
Recipes with stone fruits
If you’re hungry for some delicious stone fruit, take a look at these mouthwatering fruity recipes.
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