Stone Fruit

Stone 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
acerola
These are very rich in vitamin C, and somewhat acidic. You can eat them out of hand, but they're better suited for making preserves.
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apricot
apricot
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.
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aprium
aprium
This is an apricot/plum cross, with apricot dominating.
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cherry
cherry
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.
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chokecherry
chokecherry
These are too tart for most people to eat out of hand, but they make delicious preserves.
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donut peach
donut peach
These squat peaches have white flesh, and a very good flavor. Use them as you would ordinary peaches.
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green almonds
green almonds
Middle Eastern cooks use these in stews and desserts.
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nectarine
nectarine
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.
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peach
peach
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.
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plum
plum
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.
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pluot
pluot
This is a plum/apricot cross, with plum dominating.
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sour cherry
sour cherry
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.
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Stone Fruit
Stone 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.
Learn more
sweet cherry
sweet cherry
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.
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