Everything you need to know about stone fruit.
While watermelon is often the fruit most synonymous with hot summer days, come midsummer you'll begin to see peaches and nectarines, preceded by cherries and apricots in the spring. What do all these juicy fruits have in common? They're stone fruits. Get to know these fleshy fruits, and discover top-rated recipes for cooking with them.
What is Stone Fruit, Exactly?
Stone fruits get their name from the pit or "stone" in their center that is encased in a fleshy outer area. Also known as drupes, stone fruits tend to have thin skins that may be fuzzy or smooth. The pit is actually a large seed, and stone fruits can be either clingstone or freestone depending on how easily the flesh pulls away from the seed. Since most stone fruits won't ripen after being harvested, they’re picked at their peak and only good for a small window of time. This makes them highly seasonal, with different stone fruits arriving at different seasons.
When picking stone fruit, don’t be afraid of a few bruises as this indicates a ripe, tasty fruit that may actually be better than a hard, spotless one. If you want to test the ripeness of a stone fruit without squeezing (and bruising) them, their smell is a great indicator of ripeness—the more aromatic the better. There's a lot of variety within stone fruits, and a few might surprise you. Read on to learn about 14 common types of stone fruits, and ways to cook with them.
14 Common Types of Stone Fruit
One of the most popular stone fruits, peaches have a furry skin and a large pit. Like some other stone fruits, they can come in either clingstone or freestone and white or yellow varieties. They can even come in flat, round varieties that resemble donuts. No matter what kind of peach you go with, they're great for grilling, or adding to cobblers and pies. They'll show up at your farmers market midsummer and continue until the beginning of fall—be sure to get them while they're ripe!
"This is the most delicious peach pie recipe out there, but the trick to push it over the top is to make a homemade pie crust," says reviewer Laura M.
Popular Peach Recipes:
Plums have a thin, smooth skin and super juicy flesh, so a napkin is always a good idea if you’re eating them raw. Toss plums in salads, or bake with them to really bring out their flavor. Red, black, or yellow—plums come in a variety of colors. The best thing about plums? They have a long growing season (spring through early fall), giving you all the more time to cook with them.
Popular Plum Recipes:
Cherries are the first stone fruit to make an appearance in spring, and they range anywhere from sour and tart to sweet and tender. Sour cherries are best for pies and other desserts—try to get them at their peak in July and August. Sweet cherries are perfect for snacking, and they're high in melatonin, making them a great late night snack when you need some serious shuteye.
VIDEO: Fresh Cherry Cobbler
Recipe creator Miranda Williams says, "This is a delicious cherry cobbler made with fresh cherries instead of canned. It may take a little longer to make because you need to pit the cherries, but it is well worth it when you taste the finished product."
Popular Cherry Recipes:
Nectarines are very similar to peaches, just without the fuzzy skin. They're also firmer, resembling the texture of an apple. Like peaches, nectarines can be freestone, clingstone, or semi-freestone. Use them interchangeably with peaches—for grilling, baking, salad toppings, or simply eating out of hand.
Popular Nectarine Recipes:
Apricots resemble peaches and nectarines, but tend to be smaller in size. Their flavor is tart, but their texture is rich and creamy. Apricots tend to be popular for making jam or drying, as their skin is rich in pectin (which gives jams and jellies their thick consistency). Like other stone fruits, ripe apricots are perfect for baking.
Popular Apricot Recipes:
Despite not having a large pit, mangoes are also classified as stone fruits. Ripe mangoes will give off a sweet scent, and tend to be heavier than unripe ones. These tropical fruits are best enjoyed fresh on a salad or in a smoothie.
VIDEO: Mango Salsa
Reviewer EDONNELLY says, "It's really great if you make it early so that the flavors blend. Another great tip is to squeeze out the remaining juice from the pit of the mango—it adds tons of flavor!"
Popular Mango Recipes:
If you've ever seen lychees before, it’s hard to forget their distinct appearance. They kind of resemble a dried out strawberry with their bumpy, reddish-pink exterior and translucent flesh. Their taste has been described as a cross between a grape and a pear, and they are often used in cocktails like martinis or mojitos.
Try this Lychee Recipe:
Raspberries are actually not berries after all, they're stone fruits! They’re actually aggregates of drupelets, meaning each raspberry is a cluster of tiny stone fruits that contain pits (you know, those things that get stuck in your teeth). Raspberries are extremely versatile, pairing well with chocolate for decadent desserts or perfectly complementing savory foods like pork.
"I made this for my sister-in-law's birthday and it was heavenly! It has a creamy texture with undertones of white chocolate and raspberry. My sister-in-law said it tasted 'professional,'" says reviewer Karen M.
Popular Raspberry Recipes:
- Delicious Raspberry Oatmeal Cookies Bars
- Pork Chops with Raspberry Sauce
- Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing
Like raspberries, blackberries are also mistaken for something they're not. Blackberries too are aggregates of drupelets, meaning each individual ball has a tiny pit inside. Their season if fairly short: midsummer to early fall. But they're perfect for freezing and using year round in smoothies and baked goods!
VIDEO: Chef John’s Blackberry Crisp
Chef John says, "Actually any berry will work in this recipe (even frozen, if you must), but the dark, sweet blackberries are my favorite. Served barely warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it just doesn't get much better than this."
Popular Blackberry Recipes:
Like the other berries on the list, mulberries are also just clusters of tiny drupes. They resemble elongated blackberries, and come in a range of colors from deep purple to bright reddish-pink and even white. Mulberries grow on trees, and more often than not you won’t find them in a grocery store, but you might find them in your backyard. There's a lot you can do with them: bake them into a pie, make them into jam, or freeze them and use them for everything from ice pops to smoothies.
Popular Mulberry Recipes:
Often mistaken for vegetables due to their savory taste, olives are actually stone fruits because they have a pit. They come in a wide range of colors, textures, and flavors depending on time of harvest and how they are cured (unlike other tree fruits, olives are inedible straight from the branch). There are endless uses for olives, from pizza to salads to cocktails and more.
VIDEO: Feta and Olive Meatballs
Reviewer Despina says, "I made these for an office potluck. They were amazing. I really dislike meatballs but I had to have one as I love feta and olives!"
Popular Olive Recipes:
Coconuts are not actually nuts, but stone fruits, as they enclose a single large seed. Although coconuts have three layers surrounding the seed, when you buy a coconut from a grocery store you are just getting the innermost layer known as the endocarp, which surrounds the seed. The sweet, creamy flesh of a coconut is great for baking or adding to savory foods like shrimp.
Popular Coconut Recipes:
Dates are tropical fruits that grow on palm trees, and can be enjoyed either dried (most common in the Western world) or fresh. Dates range in color from red to yellow to brown, and have a chewy texture and sweet flavor. They're great for snacking if you’re looking to add more fiber to your diet, and like most stone fruits they're great additions to many baked goods.
VIDEO: Healthy Banana Cookies
"These are great little healthy cookie bites. Bananas and dates make a great sweetener," says reviewer ALAIKAT.
Popular Date Recipes:
14. Hybrids: Pluots, Plumcots, and Apriums
These hybrid varieties are all crosses between plums and apricots, but differ based on the ratio of plum to apricot. Pluots are a majority plum, plumcots are half and half, and apriums are more apricot than plum. You can get your hands on these hybrids in the late summer, and they're perfect for baking into a variety of dishes.