The flavors of summer are bright, tasty and fun: juicy slices of fresh watermelon; salty, smoky hot dogs right off the grill; and toasty, charred marshmallows eaten off the stick! But some of the season’s most delicious treasures come straight from the farm (and produce department at your local Food Lion): stone fruit.
What is a stone fruit? It’s defined as any type of fruit with a firm pit at its center (also known as a stone) surrounding a seed. These are the summer fruits that we look forward to all year, prized for their sweet and slightly tart flavors plus their versatility in recipes!
Getting to Know Stone Fruits
Here are some of the stone fruits that you’ll find filling market shelves when summer comes around each year.
These lovely red summer fruits are usually in season May through August. Common sweet varieties are Bing, which are deep red in color, and Rainier, which have a blushing golden hue. Both types have shiny, smooth skins and juicy, sweet interiors.
Cherries are great for snacking, baking into desserts like cakes and pies, and topping ice cream sundaes. They also work well with savory foods, especially cooked down into a sauce to serve with grilled meats like chicken, pork and steak.
Storage tips: Keep cherries in a sealed plastic or paper bag or in a covered container in the refrigerator. You can also freeze pitted cherries for up to six months. They can be easily pitted with a unique kitchen tool or even with a paperclip. That’s right! Simply remove the stem, push the end of a paperclip in the cherry to locate the pit, and then use a twisting and digging motion to scoop the pit out.
Fresh peaches, with their fuzzy skins and sweet juices, are like holding summer in your hand. In season from May through September, white and yellow peaches are the most recognizable types of this popular stone fruit. White peaches are naturally lower in acid and sweeter whether they’re fully ripened or not. Yellow peaches are higher in acid but gain sweetness as they soften and ripen. Fun fact: Nectarines are the same species as peaches but feature smooth, not fuzzy, skin!
Peaches are often eaten whole (keep extra napkins handy!) or sliced as a snack and are an excellent addition to all sorts of sweet treats, including crumbles, ice cream, milkshakes and cakes. They also bring a great pop of color and flavor to sides and mains like salads, salsas, pork chops — even BBQ sauce! Peaches also get along famously with white wine. Try a sparkling wine spritzer to see for yourself.
Storage tips: Leave peaches out on a countertop or window sill to allow them to ripen. Refrigerating them right away may prevent them from ripening fully. You can also put these summer fruits in a closed paper bag to speed up the ripening process. To find out if a peach is ripe, gently press on it. Its flesh should slightly give and the fruit should have a sweet fragrance. Ripe peaches can be sliced and frozen for up to six months.
This summer fruit comes in an array of colors and sizes and enjoys a long season stretching from May into October. Plums feature smooth edible skin and fruit that range from firm to soft and very tart to sweet, depending on the variety and level of ripeness. Black, red and yellow plums are the most common types, and each can be eaten just the way they are or used to make cobblers, crisps and cakes. Like other stone fruits, plums pair perfectly with meats and are a great ingredient in summer salads. Thanks to their semi-firm texture, plums hold up incredibly well on the grill, where a touch of char brings out their subtle sweetness.
Storage tips: Like peaches, you should keep plums at room temperature while they ripen, then store them in the refrigerator. To test for ripeness, press gently on the fruit, which should indent slightly. Ripened plums can be sliced, then frozen for up to six months.
A cheerful shade of orange, these small and delicately sweet-and-sour summer fruits are in season from May to July. Typically enjoyed dried during snack time or as a jam on toast, there are plenty of other tasty ways to prepare this stone fruit as well. Dice up fresh apricot for a zesty salsa with red onion, peppers and cilantro. Or heat up the grill and cook some halved apricots for a fruity dessert with whipped topping or ice cream (or even both).
Now that you’ve learned all about stone fruits, you can head on over to the produce department at your neighborhood Food Lion, where we’re passionate about fresh, affordable fruits and vegetables! Our shelves are filled with colorful, delicious ingredients, including a wide variety of summer fruits to make your family’s favorite recipes of the season. And be on the lookout for local selections from your state as well!