Stone fruits are delicious to eat on their own, but try Ritchie's grilling and baking recipes. Click on page 2 to find recipes for White Sangria with Summer Fruits and Brown Sugar Peaches with Ice Cream; page 3 for Grilled Peach Melba; and page 4 for Plum Tart.
Peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, and cherries are all members of the Prunus genus, and that means they are closely related. They commonly are referred to as "stone fruits" because the seed is very large and hard.
Stone fruits don't become sweeter after they're picked, but growers often harvest them while they're still a bit under-ripe so that they won't bruise during transit. At the market, select specimens that have the color, if not the softness, of fully ripened fruit, then take them home and let them soften at room temperature for a few days.
- Nectarines: Nectarines resemble peaches, but they're sweeter and more nutritious. They're best if they're allowed to ripen on the tree. Unfortunately, tree-ripened nectarines bruise easily, so most growers scrimp on flavor and pick and market them while they're still slightly under-ripe. After buying nectarines, you're supposed to let them ripen for a couple of days at room temperature before eating them. This makes them softer and juicier, but not sweeter.
Avoid buying nectarines that are too hard or that have green spots (a sign they were picked way too soon) or those that are bruised. The superior freestone varieties arrive in June and July; the cling varieties that come later aren't as good.
- Peaches: Most of the peaches that are sold in markets are freestone, and de-fuzzed by the grower. Select peaches that are colorful and free of bruises. After you get them home, let them ripen at room temperature for a day or so until they become softer. They're best and cheapest in the summer.
- Plums: Plums are juicier than other stone fruits and have a longer growing season. There are many varieties: some sweet, some acidic, and some best suited for drying into prunes. They're often eaten out of hand, but they also work well in cobblers, compotes, and tarts.
- Apricots: Like other stone fruit, apricots are sweetest (and most prone to bruising) when they're allowed to ripen on the tree. But unless you can pick your own, you'll probably have to make do with the slightly under-ripe, more durable apricots sold in markets. Allow them to soften at room temperature for a few days before eating them. They're best in the summer.