Sensational summer stone fruit

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There’s nothing quite like biting into a sweet, juicy stone fruit during their summer peak.  Whether you like peaches, plums, nectarines, cherries, or apricots, now is the time to enjoy their delicious and nutritious benefits they offer promoting our health and wellness. 

The term “stone-fruit” refers to the large, hard seed surrounded by the outer, fleshy part we eat.  All stone fruits are members of the Prunus genus and are therefore closely related.  One surprising stone fruit is the almond.  When on the tree, almonds look like small, hard, green peaches with the almond’s shell looking similar to a peach pit.  The fruit’s seed is the kernel, which is what we eat.  Stone fruits have been noted for their slight almond flavor pointed out by culinary experts which is one reason why cherries, peaches, and apricots pair well with almonds in recipes. 

These delicate fruits are best ripened at room temperature, stem-end down.  Refrigerating them before they are ripe can cause them to develop unappetizing wrinkled skin and mealy flesh.  You’ll know when the fruit is ripe when it is soft and has a sweet aroma which at that point they can be refrigerated.  Cherries are ready to eat when purchased and can be kept in the refrigerator, loosely covered for up to three days.

Not only are stone fruits a treat to eat but where they really shine is in their nutritional package. 

All stone fruits contain high amounts of vitamin C which is known for collagen synthesis, improves immunity and blood vessel functioning. 

Vitamin A is also prevalent in stone fruits, which is needed for immune, organ and eye functioning.  Plums are a good source of vitamin K which has an important role in blood clotting, and is essential to building strong bones, and preventing heart disease.

Many of the stone fruits, particularly tart cherries, are rich in anthocyanin antioxidants that may reduce inflammation and lower the risk for conditions like heart disease, arthritis, and certain cancers.  The polyphenol antioxidants found in peaches and plums might help stop the proliferation of breast cancer cells.

Don’t forget about their fiber content.  All stone fruits contain fiber which is important for promoting regularity and reducing hunger. 

Here is a nutritional breakdown of each stone fruit along with culinary tips from Environmental Nutrition:

·      Apricots – Rich in vitamins A and C.  Add them to kebobs, use in gazpachos instead of tomatoes; add to warm oatmeal, salads, or grilled cheese.

·      Cherries, sweet – Rich in fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. Blend into smoothies, stew in a saucepan and serve over waffles or pancakes; grill and drizzle with chocolate.

·      Cherries, sour – Rich in vitamin A and C.  Chop and add to tuna or grain salads, or blend into yogurts.

·      Nectarines – Rich in fiber, vitamins A and C. – Chop into salsa or muffin batter; add slices to fruit crisps or flatbread pizza; serve with sliced baquette, fresh mozzarella, and balsamic vinegar.

·      Peaches – Rich in fiber, potassium, vitamins A and C – Enjoy eating by themselves, add slices to salad, or blend into Greek yogurt, chop and stir into mashed avocado for a dip.

·      Plums – Rich in vitamins A, C, and K.  Grill cut sides and top with Greek yogurt, or poach slices in wine to serve over chicken