Peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, and cherries—all members of the stone fruit family because of the pits in their centres—are among summer’s sweetest gifts and worth fawning over. And oh, that fragrance given from the bundles of apricots and peaches wafting through the farmers’ market air!

The delightful orbs are also nutritional heavy hitters, so you should be peachy keen on giving them a starring role in your summer’s culinary endeavours. For starters, peaches supply vitamin C, an antioxidant that may help slash the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The orange-tinged flesh of the apricot is a tip-off that it contains beta carotene, another antioxidant that has been linked to healthy brain functioning. Cherries, particularly the tart variety, contain melatonin, which is a compound thought to improve sleep patterns. Plus, all of the various guises of stone fruits come with very few tagalong calories.

Best of all, whether eaten cooked, such as in a luscious sauce, or enjoyed raw, such as sliced into a salad, the naturally sweet flavours of these stone fruits will make any summer dish sing.

Subzero heroes

During sweater weather, imported stone fruits often leave a lot to be desired. So why not load up on in-season, hazardously juicy peaches and other stone fruits when plentiful and freeze extras for a sweet reminder of sunnier days? To freeze, spread pitted stone fruit halves or whole pitted cherries on a baking sheet so that they are not touching each other. Place the tray in the freezer until the fruits are solid. Transfer them to an airtight container and store them in the freezer until needed for smoothies, sauces, and baked goods.

Recipes

Hot stuff

Grilling stone fruits only serves to heighten their natural sweetness. Simply slice peaches, nectarines, plums, or apricots in half, remove the pit, brush lightly with oil, and grill over medium heat until grill marks appear. You can thread cherries onto a skewer for easier grilling.

Cherries for strenuous exercise

This recipe provides a double whammy of fitness benefits. Not only is oatmeal loaded with protein and fibre to keep us energized, but the cherry sauce is also a treat for our muscles post-workout. A recent study showed that runners who consumed tart cherry juice experienced less inflammation and muscle damage after their marathon, as well as improved muscle recovery.

About the Author

Matthew Kadey, MSc, RD, is a Waterloo, Ontario-based dietitian, food writer, recipe developer, and author of Muffin Tin Chef (Ulysses Press, 2012).