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Stone Fruit

Synonyms:  drupes = summer fruit


The family of stone fruits includes cherries, plums, apricots, nectarines, and peaches.   They all arrive in the summer, though you can sometimes find pricey imports during the off-season.  Stone fruits don't become sweeter after they're picked, but growers often harvest them while they're still a bit underripe so that they won't bruise during transit.  At the market, select specimens that have the color, if not the softness, of fully ripened fruit, then take them home and let them soften at room temperature for a few days.  


acerola = Barbados cherry = Puerto Rican cherry = West Indian cherry  Pronunciation:   ass-ah-ROH-lah   Notes:   These are very rich in vitamin C, and somewhat acidic.  You can eat them out of hand, but they're probably better suited for making preserves.  Equivalents:  1 cup = 98 grams, 1 pitted acerola = 4.8 grams  Substitutes:   cherries


apricot  Notes:   Like other stone fruit, apricots are sweetest--and most prone to bruising--when they're allowed to ripen on the tree.  But unless you can pick your own, you'll probably have to make do with the slightly underripe, more durable apricots sold in markets.  Allow them to soften at room temperature for a few days before eating them.  They're best in the summer.  Substitutes:  apriums OR pluots OR peaches OR nectarines   

aprium   Notes:  This is an apricot/plum cross, with apricot dominating.  Substitutes:  pluots OR apricots OR plums

Barbados cherry  See acerola

cherry   Notes:   There are three main categories of cherries:  sweet cherries, which are for eating out of hand, sour cherries, which are best suited for making pies, preserves, and sauces, and tart chokecherries.     Substitutes:   stone fruit

chokecherry  Notes:   These are too tart for most people to eat out of hand, but they make delicious preserves.  Substitutes:  sour cherries OR cranberries


donut peach = saucer peach   Notes:  These squat peaches have white flesh, and a very good flavor.  Use them as you would ordinary peaches.  Substitutes:  peaches

green almonds  Notes:  Middle Eastern cooks use these in stews and desserts.


nectarine  Pronunciation:   nek-tuh-REEN  Notes:   Nectarines resemble peaches, but they're sweeter and more nutritious.  They're best if they're allowed to ripen on the tree.  Unfortunately, tree-ripened nectarines bruise easily, so most growers scrimp on flavor and pick and market them while they're still slightly underripe.  After buying nectarines, you're supposed to let them ripen for a couple of days at room temperature before eating them.  This makes them softer and juicier, but not sweeter.  Avoid buying nectarines that are too hard or that have green spots--a sign they were picked way too soon--or those that are bruised.  The superior freestone varieties arrive in June and July; the cling varieties that come later aren't as good.    Substitutes: peaches (not as sweet) OR apricots  


peach   Notes:    Most of the peaches that are sold in markets are freestone, and de-fuzzed by the grower.  Select peaches that are colorful and free of bruises.  After you get them home, let them ripen at room temperature for a day or so until they become softer.  They're best and cheapest in the summer.  Substitutes:  nectarines (sweeter) OR apricots OR papaya OR mango   

pie cherry  See sour cherry


plum = fresh prune   Notes:    Plums are juicier than other stone fruits, and have a longer growing season.  There are many varieties, some sweet, some acidic, and some best suited for drying into prunes.  They're often eaten out of hand, but they also work well in cobblers, compotes, and tarts.   Substitutes:  pluot (plum/apricot cross, with plum dominating) OR aprium (apricot/plum cross, with apricot dominating) OR loquat OR prunes (rehydrate first in water)

pluot = plumcot   Notes:  This is a plum/apricot cross, with plum dominating.  Substitutes:  apriots OR plums OR apricots

Puerto Rican cherry  See acerola

saucer peach  See peach.

sour cherry = pie cherry = tart cherry = red cherry   Notes:   While sweet cherries are best for eating out of hand, knowing cooks turn to sour cherries for pie fillings, sauces, soups, and jams.  Popular varieties include the Montmorency, Morello, and Early Richmond.  Sour cherries don't transport well, so they're difficult to find fresh.  Canned sour cherries, though, are almost as good.  If you want, boost their flavor a bit by adding one tablespoon of Kirschwasser per cup. Substitutes: chokecherries (for preserves) OR sweet cherries (use less sugar) OR loquats (similar flavor, good in pies and preserves) OR sweet cherries OR dried cherries (Soak these in cherry liqueur before using.)


sweet cherry   Notes:   These appear in the summer, with the popular and exquisite Bing cherries arriving in June and July.  Other varieties have the virtue of arriving before or after the Bings, but they're often not nearly as tasty.  Select cherries that are large, deeply colored, and firm.  Substitutes:  sour cherries (These are the preferred cherries for preserves, sauces, pie fillings, and many desserts because they're more flavorful than sweet cherries when cooked.  Add sugar to taste.) OR dried cherries (Soak these in cherry liqueur before using.)

tart cherry  See sour cherry.

West Indian cherry  See acerola.


Copyright 1996-2005  Lori Alden