Stone fruits are a summertime staple, but beyond being delicious, these fruits are incredibly good for you. These diverse fruits can add flavor to summertime pies, smoothies, and salads, but they are also great on their own. Stone fruits do tend to be difficult to store, so you’ll need to move quickly to get all of that nutrition.
What is a Stone Fruit?
The term stone fruit comes from the culinary world, and refers to the single, hard covering that surrounds the single seed at the core of this type of fruit, often called a “pit.” Some popular stone fruits include peaches, cherries, plums, and apricots, but one lesser-known stone fruit is the almond.
All stone fruits are part of the rose family, which becomes more obvious when the trees on which they grow begin to bloom in the spring and produce small blossoms. Stone fruits only grow for a short time, which contributes to their difficulty to store. The season for these fruits is so short that many people miss out on their nutrition.
Stone fruit is also commonly canned or frozen because of its short lifespan. They can also be juiced, dried, or eaten fresh, depending on your preference. All of these ways of preserving the fruits will give you at least some of the great benefits of eating them, but you probably won’t get all of those benefits unless you eat them fresh.
Why Should You Eat Stone Fruit?
There are plenty of reasons to eat stone fruits, but the top two are probably their nutritional value and their fantastic taste and versatility. Because every stone fruit tastes different from the next, there is at least one for everyone. Other reasons you may want to indulge in stone fruits this season are as follows:
We could go on, but you get the picture. Stone fruits are almost magic beans for your health and are a vital part of a healthy seasonal diet. Obviously not every stone fruit provides every single one of these benefits, but if you eat a nice variety of them throughout the summer, you are sure to check each box and keep yourself healthy.
Most stone fruits have an abundance of vitamin C inside just waiting to help your immune function. Vitamin C has been proven time and again to promote your body’s fight against infections, so say goodbye to summer colds. Stone fruits have other immune-boosting antioxidants as well, which can add up to excellent immunity.
Another benefit of vitamin C is the role it plays in creating collagen, which is a major player in your overall skin health and elasticity. Collagen is the primary protein within the connective tissues in your body; so eating foods that help to create and maintain it is vital to your overall health.
Nerve and Muscle Health
Although we usually think of bananas when we think of keeping up our potassium, stone fruits can offer this amazing substance as well. Potassium is essential in keeping up our nerve and muscle health. It also helps to decrease irritability and fatigue and can help control blood pressure.
The bright orange color found in many stone fruits such as apricots, nectarines, and peaches is delivered by their high supply of carotenoids. Carotenoids are an antioxidant that helps strengthen eyesight, build immune function, and strengthen skin membranes. Carotenoids are most prominent in the fruits when they’re cooked.
Stone fruits are high in both soluble and insoluble fiber, which is well known to aid in digestion. The insoluble fibers in the skins of these fruits can help to regulate the gastrointestinal tract, while the soluble fibers found in the fruit’s flesh helps your body to keep blood glucose and cholesterol levels stabilized.
Lower Risk of Diabetes
Anthocyanins found in some stone fruits are antioxidants that can help to reduce inflammation in the body. This reduction of inflammation can prevent a plethora of diseases and can help reduce your risk of obesity, which often leads to diabetes and cancer. These antioxidants can also help prevent muscle damage.
In addition to the anthocyanins present in stone fruits, phytochemicals are also found in high levels. Phytochemicals also have anti-inflammatory properties and researchers believe they may be helpful in managing your weight and reducing risk of disease.
A bonus vitamin found in many stone fruits is vitamin K. This is one vitamin that is often overlooked, despite its necessity to help your body absorb vitamin D and the major role it plays in keeping your bones and teeth strong. Higher vitamin K levels have been associated with lower risk of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.
The heart benefits from stone fruits in almost every way, since all of the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that stone fruits provide for other aspects of your body are passed on to the heart. For instance, anti-inflammatory properties regulate blood pressure and fiber reduces bad cholesterol levels.
Some stone fruits, such as cherries, are rich in melatonin, which helps us to sleep at night. Other stone fruits, like peaches, help to reduce anxiety and aid in relaxation, which will again help us to sleep better. Healthy bodies have more normalized sleep cycles, to begin with, so the benefits of stone fruits in other ways aid in sleep as well.
Because stone fruits contain a wide array of minerals and vitamins, eating them regularly can help to maintain the balance of minerals in your body, which can keep you from getting sick and keep your body strong.
Stone fruits can be used in a wide variety of ways to add diversity and flavor to your summer dishes. They can also be stored and saved through canning, freezing, and other methods to be used throughout the year. The versatility of these fruits helps to make them more fun to consume. You’re maintaining health without even realizing.
How to Buy, Eat, and Store Stone Fruit
Sometimes knowing what to look for when you’re buying fresh produce can be difficult. It seems like every piece of produce has a different “tell” regarding its readiness. For the most part, stone fruits are easy to deal with because their ripeness comes with some telltale signs.
When stone fruits are ripe, they should feel soft, but not squishy. Too firm, and it probably isn’t ripe yet, too squishy, and it’s likely gone bad. Stone fruits also give off a sweet aroma when they are ripe and ready for consumption, so go ahead and sniff that peach, we promise no one in the know will judge you.
You should also look for minimal flaws and punctures on the skin of your fruits as you buy them since those can lead to the fruits going bad sooner than you’d like. You should buy these fruits from around June to September because that’s when they are the freshest and more likely to be grown locally.
We’ll glaze over this section since we’ve already discussed the versatility of stone fruits a bit earlier. Some stone fruits are best to eat raw, while others give you more nutrients when cooked, so make sure you keep that in mind when deciding how to utilize these fruits.
Fruit pies and jams are two of the most popular ways to eat stone fruits, but grilling them and eating them raw is also up there on the list. They make great additions to smoothies and shakes, and can even act as sweet toppers on ice cream or yogurt.
Storing stone fruits can be difficult, especially if you’re trying to eat them fresh. The best way to keep these fruits ripe for the longest period of time is to buy them slightly under-ripe, and then bring them to ripeness at room temperature for a few days before consuming them.
If you need to keep your stone fruits for longer, you can slice them up and store them in the freezer. The best way to do this is to place them in an airtight container. If you want to preserve the shape of the fruit, try rolling them in sugar before freezing.
Cherries are the exception to these rules. Cherries do not ripen once they are harvested, so they usually spoil quicker than other stone fruit. Store cherries in the refrigerator to keep them ripe longer. You should also keep cherries separated from potent foods since they can take on the tastes and smells of other foods.
Unlike other stone fruits, you do not have to pit cherries to store them in the freezer, although you can if you’d like. The pit does not add bitterness to the cherries the way it does to plums, peaches, and nectarines, so you are welcome to freeze them in whatever form you like.
The Wrap Up
There are plenty of reasons that you should be eating stone fruit, but the number one reason is your health and wellbeing. The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants found in stone fruit can help minimize your risks for developing a large variety of diseases, boost your immune system, and keep your bones and muscles strong.