One of the greatest things about summer is it is the season when the majority of stone fruits are in season, but what is a stone fruit exactly? Well, Stone fruits are a diverse family of fleshy fruits that can range in size from tiny crabapples to large coconuts.
The majority of stone fruits have a creamy texture and are sweet fruits like peaches or mangoes, but other stone fruits can have a tart flavor. Montmorency and Morello Cherries are common examples.
The defining feature of stone fruits is their large pit. While most people mistakenly think of this as a single seed, the pit is actually a hard endocarp that protects the seed hidden inside it.
Let’s have a closer look at each of the stone fruits below, listed from “A” to “Z”.
Small juicy fruits that resemble peaches, ripe apricots have a large pit in the middle that classifies them as stone fruits.
Apricots are eaten fresh, dried, or used as ingredients in baking recipes as often (if not more often) than they are consumed raw.
Apricots are a healthy choice due to their high levels of Vitamin A and Vitamin C, in addition to having plenty of potassium as well. Apricots also offer loads of dietary fiber and beta carotene.
Believe it or not, blackberries are indeed stone fruit regardless of their size and how different they are from most other stone fruit species.
These berries may be much smaller than many stone fruit species, but the seed in the center of the fruit is large and hard, just like any other stone fruit.
The great thing about blackberries is that they’re commercialized these days, so you can buy them all year (unlike in our grandparent’s day, when you couldn’t buy them in the freezer section of Kroger or Walmart!).
These beloved thin-skinned little red treats with smooth skin are another one that often soars under the radar as stone fruit.
But, at the center of every cherry lies a big hard pit, so there is no denying what type of fruit they are (stone fruit – whether you ever see the seed in the middle, or have to remove it or not).
Most people buy their cherries with the stones removed, jarred, canned, or from the freezer section of the grocery store.
These drupes come in many shapes sizes and flavors, including sweet cherries, sour cherries, wild cherries, and more.
That said, there’s no cherry better than fully ripe fresh cherries straight from the tree!
Coconuts are one of the larger species in the stone fruit family, and one that is often overlooked.
The coconut is classified as a large one-seed drupe due to the large seed in the middle.
If you live in a region where coconuts grow, you can usually find them for next to nothing at a local farmers’ market.
But, depending on where you live, the local grocery stores may or may not carry coconuts all year, so you’ll have to make due!
Fun fact: Coconut trees may take up to seven years or more to start producing fruit regularly. Even more impressive, in some cultures, coconuts are known as the tree of life.
Hailing from the middle eastern regions of the world, dates are one of the most well-known stone fruits on the planet (if not one of the tastiest!).
Dates are also one of the most widely consumed types of stone fruit out there (right alongside figs and apricots). They are a great source of magnesium, iron, potassium, and calcium.
Fun fact: Dates are considered to be the first stone fruit cultivated in the world (not one of, but “the” oldest one, period. Science suggests dates may have been around for tens of millions of years already and still take center stage as dried dates are often featured in Arabic celebrations.!
The Lychee, or genus Litchi, is unlike most stone fruit species. It belongs to a single-member family known as the soapberry family (or Sapindaceae).
Lychees, in one place or another, have been cultivated for approximately 1,000 years.
The fruit is most famous in Asia and the eastern regions of the world, for its sweet and floral taste.
This tasty stone fruit species is another of the largest species on the list, with nearly 45 million tons produced each year commercially. Mangos are also seen as one of the most unique stone fruit out there (right beside coconuts).
Mangos are loaded with far higher levels of Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin C, than most stone fruits. Further, it packs around two dozen additional vitamins, minerals, and healthy stuff.
And let’s not forget, mangos taste amazing raw, in smoothies, on ice cream, and so much more! Most mangoes are enjoyed fully ripe but many Asian dishes use unripe ones.
Mulberry may not be as popular as it once was, but they are still widely cultivated and make great ingredients for jam, cookies, pie, and more.
Mulberries are larger and much sweeter than most berries, and they grow on tall trees rather than shrubs or vines.
Unfortunately, mulberries aren’t always for sale at the local grocery store. In fact, you’d have much better luck cruising the local farmer’s market to find mulberries.
These little reddish-yellow round treats are also classified as stone fruits because of the large and hard seed in the center.
Nectarines are, more or less, peaches with no fuzz on their skin. They are an excellent source of beta-carotene, vitamins, and minerals as well as tasting great.
Depending on where you live, and shop, nectarines should be available all year long in the fresh produce section. But, if they’re not, you may find them in the canned produce section.
As strange as the idea may sound, olives are technically fruits (not nuts, not vegetables) regardless of their non-fruity taste.
Olive fruits grow on trees, have a fleshy interior that’s edible covered by thin skin, and a big fat pit in the middle.
These tasty “fruits” are also often stuffed with pickled pimento peppers (those little orange things inside the olives you buy in the jar).
All things considered, this drupe isn’t one for tossing in the fruit salad.
One of the most well-known and beloved fruits in the world, peaches can be classified as clingstone or freestone peaches. The difference between the two is that the super juicy flesh in clingstone peaches is bound to the pit while the pit of a freestone is more easily removed. There are a few varieties of this fuzzy skin fruit that are considered semi-freestone but they are exceptions rather than the rules.
Peaches and nectarines are often confused with each other, and technically nectarines are a subspecies of peach. What separates peaches and nectarines is that the latter inherited a recessive gene that a peach lacks.
Plums of the genus prunus, are grown on trees, somewhat resemble peaches, and may be eaten raw, used in jam, sauce, or other recipes. Today, fresh plums may be considered a bit old-fashioned, but plums are as tasty and healthy for you as ever.
Plums are also often dried and turned into prunes (which are like really big raisins). Either way, raw or dried, plums are equally tasty.
Additionally, plums have some beneficial properties that are commonly used as a home remedy for upset stomach and constipation. The juice from plums is particularly useful in this manner.
Like blackberries, raspberries are classified as stone fruits because they have giant seeds in the middle of each berry.
However, if you only pick fully ripe berries, they slide right off of the seed (without even tugging). That’s why they classify as freestone.
That means you never have to deal with the big hard seed because it is left on the vine (unlike with drupes like cherries, where the seed is likely a clingstone).
FAQs About Stone FruitsWhat is a Stone Fruit?
Stone fruit is a type of fruit that has a fleshy interior and protective skin, with a large seed in the center (which is too hard to chew). Whether or not you’ve heard the term before, you’re familiar with several stone fruits already: apricots, peaches, and cherries, for example.
Below, we delve deeper into the individual members of the stone fruit list.
What Fruit Are in the Stone Family?
The stone fruit list includes 13 items:
Depending on where you live, and whether or not you include hybrid drupes, your list of stone fruit may include additional types of fruit!
How to Buy Stone Fruit?
Stone fruit may be purchased at the local grocery store, farmers market, from a local garden, or even online.
It is best to buy in person, at whichever local market is known for having the best variety of fruit.
It’s best to have a list of the fresh produce you’re interested in buying, that way you can look and ask for them by name.
What Are the Types of Stone Fruits?
There are three main types of drupes (though the shape, size, color, and taste of each stone fruit vary wildly): clingstone, freestone, and semi-freestone.
What’s the Difference Between Clingstone and Freestone
Clingstones tend to be clingy, meaning they don’t want to let go of the fruit when you try to remove them.
Freestones, on the other hand, come out with very little effort and don’t pull parts of the flesh away (like clingstones do).
In essence, clingstones literally cling to the flesh of the fruit, and freestones come “free” with little effort.
Cherries are a good example of clingstones, as their seeds cling to the flesh. Raspberries, on the other hand, are textbook freestone, pulling away from the large seed with ease.
Are Stone Fruits and Berries the Same?
Stone fruit and berries are not always the same, though they are often similar or even related (if only in name).
for example, blackberries and raspberries are both Blackberries and Raspberries are not a berry, they are drupes, because of the large seed in the center.
But blueberries, which have no large or hard seed in their center, are not drupes.
Cherries are drupes, not berries, though they are often confused for, or included with, berries.
Is Avocado a Stone Fruit?
Believe it or not, avocado is not a drupe (though it has most of the characteristics of one). Avocados are actually berries due to their fleshy interior.
Is Apple a Stone Fruit?
Apples are not considered stone fruit because they do not have a singular stone in their center.
Rather, the apple core contains multiple small chewable (but crunchy) seeds. These crunchy little seeds and the lack of a hard stone disqualify them for being classified as a drupe.
Are Stone Fruits Safe for Pets?
Stone fruits are not safe for pets without first having their stones removed.
Once the large seed is removed from the center of the fruit, most drupes are perfectly safe for pets.
That said, you should always double-check what foods and safe for your pets (aside from choking hazards) before feeding them.
Are Stone Fruits Safe for Children?
Stone fruits are mostly safe for children, because they may be properly prepared (have their stones removed) before being served.
Further, they may even be purchased without the stones in them. Otherwise, drupes aren’t the safest food choice for children without a parent’s supervision.