Stone Fruits! All You Need To Know
Stone fruits, also known by their botanical names – Drupes, are biologically indehiscent fruits. This means that these fruits do not shed their seeds on maturity. As the name suggests, they have a ‘stone’ or a pit in the center and a thin skin on the outside layer. The rest is all the fleshy and succulent goodness of the fruit.
Nutritionally, stone fruits are low in calories and high in micronutrients. The average nutritional value can be up to 70 calories per cup of chopped fruit, with very little fat (<1 gram). Vitamins C, A, potassium, and calcium are the chief components of stone fruits, and they are known to keep cholesterol in check, owing to their high fiber content.
Some of the most common stone fruits are peaches, plums, cherries, nectarines, apricots, mangoes, lychees, coconuts, green almonds, dates, and even olives. Stone fruits may also appear in clusters like berries (mulberries, blackberries, and raspberries). These fruits mostly peak in summer, roughly between late April till mid-August.
How do you know when a stone fruit is ripe?
When drupes are ripe, they are a little tender and soft to touch and have a sweet aroma. Covering stone fruits (kept distinctively aside from each other) with a piece of dry cloth or paper for one to four days at room temperature (65-75°F) helps ripen them.
Do you keep stone fruits in the fridge?
If the stone fruits have become ripe but are not to be consumed on the same day, they can be stored in the refrigerator. However, they need to be covered in plastic or a Ziplock pouch in order to retain the necessary moisture.
Popular Stone Fruits
Peaches: Peaches are best enjoyed when bought fresh from the market and consumed immediately. If this stone fruit is more on the green side, it needs to be covered and stored at room temperature for a day or two to be ripened for consumption. It should be remembered that peaches do not get sweeter with time as sugar (sucrose) production ceases when they are harvested. A large peach has roughly 68 calories and fulfils almost 1/5th of the daily requirement of Vitamin C and 1/10th of the requirement of Vitamin A and potassium.
Apart from being low in fat (almost nil), peaches are also rich in essential minerals like copper, manganese, and Vitamins B3 (niacin), E, and K. Being red, orange and yellow in colour, they possess carotenoids like such as beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, cryptoxanthin, and zeaxanthin which are known to be beneficial for the eyes and cardiovascular health. They also prevent different metabolic diseases (diabetes) and cancer (breast and prostate being the most notable ones). The peel of peaches are high in antioxidants and should be consumed to reap the maximum benefits of this stone fruit.
Plums: Not only are plums one of the most delicious, juicy, succulent fruit, but they have the added benefit of being equally good for consumption when fresh or dried (as prunes). These drupes are rich in anti-inflammatory antioxidants, including phenolic compounds, such as proanthocyanidins and kaempferol.
Anti-inflammatory antioxidants prevent damage caused by free radicals and may reduce the chances of progressive illnesses like neurodegenerative and cardiovascular disease.
When dried, prunes provide concentrated doses of the same nutrients found in the fresh plums and are equally good sources of nutrition, if not better. Moreover, it has been scientifically proven that eating prunes may increase bone mineral density, relieve constipation, and reduce blood pressure.
Two plums (approx. 130gm) have a nutritional value of 60 calories with generous doses of Vitamin A, C and K.
Nectarines: Nectarines are stone fruits similar to peaches with both white and vibrant yellow, orange variants, with either clingstone (clinging to the seed) or freestone (free from the seed). The main differences between the two lie in their physical appearance, texture, and aroma.
Nectarines have a smoother skin and are more aromatic than peaches. When purchasing nectarines, be sure that they are free of bruises and punctures. One large nectarine has around 88 calories and is high in essential vitamins and fiber with negligible fat content.
Being orange and yellow in colour, nectarines are also high in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that helps in maintaining skin, teeth, and bone health.
Cherries: Cherries are a popular choice of many, owing to their sweet flavour. This stone fruit is nutrient dense and is high in fiber, Vitamin C, and potassium, which have many health benefits.
Vitamin C in cherries keeps the immune system in check and maintains skin health, while potassium helps in muscle contraction, nerve function, blood pressure regulation. The dietary fiber in this drupe promotes favourable bowel movements and ensures gut health. Some other micronutrients in cherries are Vitamin B, manganese, copper, magnesium, and vitamin K.
Dates: Dates are tropical fruits that can be consumed fresh and in dried form. The fresh form has fewer calories than the dried ones. Dates are high in essential nutrients like Vitamin A and K, along with phosphorus and magnesium. On average, 100 grams of this stone fruit provides 282 calories. They make an excellent snack in between meals and can be had with warm milk for the best health benefits.
Lychee: Lychees have a distinctive pinkish-red appearance with a bumpy texture, while the inside fruit is fleshy and translucent. Their taste is distinctively sweet and can be best described as somewhere between watermelon and pear, with a hint of tropical flavour. On average, 190 grams of lychee has about 125 calories with the highest amounts of Vitamin C, folate and Vitamin B6. This stone fruit also has high amounts of phenolic compounds, including rutin, epicatechin, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, and gallic acid, which are useful antioxidants.
Apricots: These stone fruits are similar to peaches but are smaller in size. Much like dates, apricots can be consumed fresh or as dry fruits. On average, these golden stone fruits contain 87 calories apiece and are packed with Vitamin C, A, and potassium. Apricots also contain catechins, flavonoid phytonutrients that have anti-inflammatory benefits and help in digestion, maintain healthy skin and bones. The dried form of this drupe has a relatively higher concentration of Vitamin A, E potassium and iron that fulfils about 1/4th of the daily requirement of these micronutrients.
Mangoes: One of the most prominent and coveted tropical fruits, mango, is a powerhouse of nutrients, popular especially in the Indian subcontinent. They are bright yellow in colour and are rich in antioxidants, including anthocyanins and carotenoids. This stone fruit also provides a rich amount of Vitamin B complex, Vitamin K, magnesium, potassium, and copper.
Nutritionally, a 200 gram serving of mangoes contains about 170 calories and 4 grams of fiber, with almost 96% of the daily requirement of Vitamin C, 1/3rd of the requirement of Vitamin A and 1/10th of Vitamin E. It also promotes healthy digestion and improves metabolism when eaten in moderation.
Raspberry, Mulberry & Blackberry: Raspberries, mulberries and blackberries make it to this list because they are actually aggregates of stone fruits, known as drupelets. These berries are strong in antioxidants such as quercetin and gallic acid, which prevent free-radical induced damage and even protect from different forms of cancer. A serving of 150 grams of these berries has only 70 calories and is high on vitamins and minerals.
Apart from these, coconuts and olives are also stone-fruits known for their healthy fat content, apart from being rich in antioxidants.