Stone fruits are in peak season right now and we wanted to take a closer look at the “summer only” sweet fruits. While some other fruits you might be able to get away with serving at other times of the year, stone fruits are difficult to pass off as all-season edibles and are only at their best in the summertime. Let’s take a closer look at peaches, nectarines and cherries!
There is nothing like taking a bite of a sweet, juicy peach on a hot summer day. Peaches in their prime are a treat enough on their own, but we like to step it up with cobblers, pies, Popsicles, and even savory recipes like salsas, salads and light meat and seafood dishes. When ripe, peaches will give off a sweet smell (Perhaps they smell so sweet because they are relatives to the rose family?) and have just a little give with a gentle squeeze. Of course, we prefer the local Palisade peaches with their sweeter, almost honey like flavor and softer flesh, which is attributed to the Palisade area’s fertile, peachy keen volcanic soil. When purchasing at the store, there are two main varieties: clingstone, meaning the flesh of the fruit will “cling” to the stone, and freestone, the flesh is more easily released from the sometimes-stubborn stone. Peaches can also be found with both white flesh and yellow flesh.
Nectarines are often confused for peaches, and most times they can be substituted in recipes instead of peaches, as they share many of the same genes. Aesthetically, they differ in the nectarine’s shiny smooth skin, and the peach’s fuzz. Flavor profiles are slightly different as well–the nectarine tends to be more floral, and less sweet than the honey-like flavor of the peach. Some cooks may prefer cooking with nectarines, as their flesh tends to hold up better against heat. Like the peach, nectarines can be sold in white or yellow flesh and also have the clingstone and freestone varieties. Most peaches and nectarines can be stored at room temperature until ready to eat, or can ripen in a closed paper bag. The ripening can also be slowed down by storing in the fridge.
Sweet cherries often feel like summer’s cutest treat. It is difficult to find cherries out of season, and that adds to their summer allure and our desire to include them. Many times cherries come with a hefty price tag. One reason for the higher price point is that one tree produces just about seven thousand cherries – that’s about thirty pies’ worth. The dark red variety found in most stores is known as the wild cherry, or Bing. Van cherries are slightly smaller than Bings, and the sour cherry is best for baking and pies. These cherries are sweet, seductive, and juicy. Any wild cherries are the cherries we picture in our bowl all summer! Also found this time of year is the famed golden yellow Rainer cherries. These cherries are sought after for their lighter, yet still juicy flavor. The Rainer cherry comes with the highest price tag because birds pick off most of the crop before it reaches the store shelves. Royal Ann and maraschino cherries are used for candies, canning, and preserves, it is rare to see them sold fresh. When buying cherries, select a bunch that is glossy, plump, and slightly soft to the touch. Keep cherries refrigerated in a bowl and rinse just before eating–rinsing too long before eating will make them spoil quicker.