Just What, Exactly, Is a Stone Fruit?
They're the essence of summer but we've never seen a sign for them at the farmers' market or in the grocery store.
At the start of summer, there's excited chatter in baking circles announcing the arrival of "stone fruit season." You nod and smile as fellow bakers swap recipes for peach pie and plum cake, having gathered that they're somehow relevant to the conversation. But the last time you checked, there weren't any signs for two-for-one stone fruit at the supermarket. Stones? You can dig those out of the backyard for free.
Allow us to clear things up. Stone fruits are the essence of summer and when we talk about them, as we often do, we're referring to any fruit with a soft flesh and a hard pit at the center: peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, and cherries, plus fruits you won't generally see at the farmers' market like lychees and mangoes. The pit (or stone…or, if you're a botanist, endocarp) isn't the seed; actually it's a hard shell protecting the seed, which grows inside of it. Stone fruits are also called drupes.
On the other hand, fruits with a soft flesh and a soft endocarp are called berries. (Perhaps you've heard of them?) This includes raspberries and blueberries, but more confusingly, also melons and avocados, whose seed-encasing endocarp is thin, fleshy, and often almost indistinguishable from the soft fruit surrounding it. That's right: a melon is a berry, botanically speaking at least. Are you feeling more confused or less?
Don't overthink it! Just enjoy the fruits of this succulent season, which peaks in July and August (except for cherries, which come on in June). And remember you don't have to bake to enjoy them. We're all for peach ice cream or boozy no-bake desserts with plums. Though of course we totally endorse baked goods featuring stone fruit and we hope you feel empowered to enter the baking fray-and the recipe swap-with confidence. We sure are glad they didn't decide to call them "pit fruits."