Get the most from fresh, summery stone fruits with these handy tips and cooking ideas.
Availability: Stone fruit are best at the height of summer. Apricots have a shorter season, finishing in February.
Buying: Look for firm, ripened fruit, with no bruises, deep in colour. Peaches and nectarines are extremely fragrant. Smelling them at room temperature will tell you how ripe they are. Apricots, unlike other stone fruits, won't continue to ripen after picked.
Storing: Nectarines, peaches and apricots are best stored in a cool, dark place. Refrigeration will dull the flavour. Unripe fruit will ripen more quickly in a paper bag at room temperature.
Nutrition: For so little energy (50-80kJ) a peach, nectarine or 3 smaller apricots are a satisfying sweet. Stone fruits add small but useful amounts of a wide range of vitamins and minerals as well as fibre, all served up with natural sugars. The colours indicate different antioxidants: red-hued skin or flesh indicates the presence of anthocyanins, and golden colours the carotenoid family (like beta-carotene).
Ideas for using stone fruit
- Liven up a rice pudding with stewed apricots or nectarines in cinnamon-scented syrup. Wash 4 nectarines, cut in strips, and place in a pot with 1/2 cup water, 3 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 cinnamon stick. Stew for about 15 minutes. Add warm fruit and syrup to chilled rice pudding.
- Place washed and cored stone fruits flesh-side-up in a baking tray and sprinkle with sugar. Grill for about 10 minutes. Serve with yoghurt.
- Make a different kind of breakfast with diced stone fruits and sweet couscous. Cook couscous following packet directions, and season with sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon. Serve with fresh or stewed stone fruits.
- Add stone fruit to jelly. Try lemonade jelly with apricots/ nectarines or strawberry jelly with peaches.
- Bake delicious fruit squares. Lay filo pastry on a tray. Spray with oil, and cut in 4 squares. Pile 3 tablespoons of chopped stone fruit in the centre of a square, then gently lift the 4 corners of the pastry into the centre of the fruit pile. Sprinkle sugar on top and bake for 15 minutes at 180ºC. Serve with yoghurt.