Sadly, summer’s stone fruit growing season is way too short, but oh so sweet! Did you know:
• Plum trees are grown in every continent except Antarctica.
• The peach has a poisonous pit containing hydrocyanic acid.
• On average, there are 44 cherries to the pound.
• California grows more than 95 percent of nectarines.
• In China, apricots (called “moons of the faithful”) were believed to boost women’s fertility.
Take a big bite of this fuzzy, juicy quintessential fruit of summer and fill your mouth with pure ambrosia. A member of the rose family, consumption of peaches once known as the “Persian apple,” originated in China over 2,000 years ago and eventually the fruit found its way to America via Spanish explorers.
With more than 700 varieties, they’re divided into clingstone and freestone by the ease at which the flesh separates from the pit. Either white (low acid) or yellow, this hard-stoned fruit has a motherlode of carotenes, potassium, flavonoids, lycopene and lutein.
This combo of phytochemicals has been found to be mighty warriors against everything from prostate cancer to heart disease. Stave these off with a warm spinach and grilled peach salad, a crispy peach and arugula pizza, curried salmon with peach chutney, gingered peach cobbler — or eat them chilled in hand for an energy-boosting snack.
The Hairless Breed
It is a misconception that the glabrous-skinned nectarine is a hybrid cross between a peach and a plum. Rather, the nectarine developed from a peach by a natural mutation, becoming a recessive allele with only a single gene differentiation that makes them smooth, while their sibling is fuzzy. Some peach trees bear nectarines, while nectarine trees might also bear peach fruits.
A Plum Job
More diverse than their stone fruit relatives plums come in a variety of colors, shapes, sizes and flavors. The most popular are the larger, juicier Japanese variety along with the denser, drier European ones with mostly yellow or reddish flesh and skin hues ranging from ruby to blackish red.
A high-fiber powerhouse, plums are loaded with anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants to ward off cellular damage and assorted cancers, Vitamin A and lutein for ocular health, iron to pump up red blood cell production, and a slew of B’s to put the skids on stress.
Whip up a puffy, gooey plum clafouti, a sweet and savory plum sauce for dipping and dunking, a Mediterranean chicken dish with green olives and prunes, or eat them crisp and cold from the fridge.
Bowl of Bings
These ruby beauties are members of the Rosaceae family and distant cousins to the peach, apricot, plum and almond with more than 1,000 varieties cultivated in 20 countries worldwide. Cherries fall into two sub-categories — sweet and sour. Just a handful of varieties are familiar to cherryphiles, including the sweet Bing, Tulare, Rainier and the Royal Ann, which morphs into the maraschino, while the tart types include the Nanking and Evans.
As healthful as they are scrumptious, these super fruits are packed with immune-boosting antioxidants, a Herculean flavonoid called quercetin to hamper heart risk factors, along with anthocyanins that have been shown to reduce arthritic joint and gout pain as they block inflammatory enzymes.
Cherries are also an excellent source of boron to dial up bone health and melatonin to stabilize the body’s circadian sleep patterns and alleviate jet lag. Toss some sweet frozen ones into smoothies or lemonades. Bake them fresh in pies, cobblers or concoct a glaze for a cheesecake topping.—
APRICOT SUMMER SALSA
1 cup diced, fresh apricots
• 1/2 fresh pineapple, diced
• 1 avocado, diced
• 2 tablespoons lime juice
• 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
• 1/4 sweet onion, minced
• 1 red pepper, diced
• salt and cayenne pepper to taste
In a glass bowl, blend the ingredients. Cover and chill.