Spectacular stone fruit … our guide to a summer of fabulous fruit
What are stone fruits?
Stone fruit are warm-weather fruits that have a thin skin and soft flesh. The name “stone fruit” comes from the hard pit or stone that these fruits have in the middle. The stone in the fruit supports the fruit as it grows by filtering nutrients from the tree to the growing fruit. Stone fruit are a species of Prunus, which are part of the large rose family. Rich in vitamins and a great source of dietary fibre, stone fruit are excellent eaten as is or used in sweet and savoury dishes.
The high levels of pectin in apricots give them their creamy texture when eaten fresh and their “meatiness” when dried.
Choose apricots that are golden orange and plump. Store unripe apricots at room temperature or place in a paper bag to speed up ripening. Ripe apricots can be stored unwashed, in the fridge for two to three days.
A Tasmanian favourite, cherries are nutritional superstars featuring potassium (to help lower blood pressure), melatonin (to regulate sleep) and anthocyanin (to fight inflammation).
The deeper the colour of a cherry the sweeter its taste, so choose red or purple cherries that are firm and glossy. Store cherries in the fridge and wash just before eating.
Luscious, juicy peaches are a great source of vitamins A and C and are prized for their fabulous flavour. White and yellow flesh varieties are available with yellow peaches said to have a classic peachy flavour that develops as the peach ripens and softens. White peaches have lower acid and taste sweet whether they are firm or soft.
Choose peaches that are fragrant and give slightly to pressure. Store ripe peaches in the fridge for up to 4 days and unripe peaches should be stored at room temperature in a paper bag.
In Australia there are about nine varieties of plums grown that range in size, shape, colour and taste, ranging from sweet to tart. Most plums fall into two main types, Asian and European. Asian plums are usually eaten fresh, while European plums are used for jams or dried (prunes). Plums are rich in vitamin A and potassium.
Look for plums that are firm to the touch and well coloured. Store ripe plums in the fridge for up to five days. Unripe plums should be ripened at room temperature.
Genetically, nectarines and peaches are very similar; the main difference being that nectarines are smooth-skinned while peaches have a fuzzy skin. Nectarines also have a firmer flesh than peaches.
Choose fragrant, well coloured fruit. A ripe nectarine should give slightly to pressure when pressed. Store ripe nectarines in the fridge for up to five days and unripe fruit should be ripened at room temperature.
Mangoes are a super-versatile stone fruit that pairs well with chicken, seafood, pineapple and passionfruit.
Ripe mangoes will have a fragrant, tropical smell and give slightly to the touch. Mangoes can be stored at room temperature until ripe and the refrigerated for up to four days.