What Exactly Are Stone Fruits? Find Out with Our Visual Guide.
For the most part, you know a stone fruit when you see it — it’s the fruit with a big pit in its center, also known as a drupe. Peaches, nectarines, cherries, plums, apricots, and pluots are all summer stone fruits that meet this criteria. The edible flesh and skin grow around the pit, which holds the seed inside. Stone fruits can either be clingstone or freestone, depending on whether or not the fruit clings to the pit.
There are a few other foods that also fall into this category. Coconuts, mangoes, dates, lychees, olives, and even green almonds are considered stone fruits — when we’re eating almonds, we’re actually snacking on the mature seed, or the pit, of the fruit itself.
But the most surprising stone fruits of all might be blackberries, mulberries, and raspberries. Yes. They’re technically stone fruits — not berries! What seems to be a single fruit is actually a cluster of individual stone fruits known as aggregates of drupelets.
How to Pick the Best Stone Fruit
As with all produce, look for firm fruits without blemishes or bruises at the market. A ripe stone fruit will be aromatic. Let stone fruits ripen at room temperature, then store in the refrigerator to prevent a mealy, overripe texture.
Stone Fruit Season
Various stone fruits come into season throughout the United States from early spring through fall, so there’s almost always an opportunity to pick up some fruits at their peak. Here’s a guide to getting your fill of juicy stone fruits all season long.
Peaches are possibly the most emblematic stone fruit, known for their sweet juiciness and fuzzy skin. White peaches can be sweeter than yellow peaches, due to their lower acidity. (Read more about the difference between white peaches and yellow peaches.) Donut peaches have a “squashed” shape that resembles a donut and tend to be super-sweet. Learn how to cut peaches.
Season: As early as April in Florida, May in Georgia and California, June for the southern U.S., July for the northeast and Great Lakes, August for the northwest, and through September for most of the U.S.
Nectarines are also a member of the peach family (species Prunis persica) and are characterized by their smooth skin. Typically slightly smaller than peaches with firmer flesh, these fruits advertise their sweetness in their name: “nectarine,” which comes from the Latin “nectar.” Like peaches, they can come in both white and yellow varieties, and be clingstone or freestone. (Learn more about the difference between peaches and nectarines.)
In season: In California, nectarines can appear as early as May, but for most of the country they are at their peak from June through August.
Plums are smaller than both peaches and nectarines, with thin skin and juicy flesh. Most of the varieties found in the United States are Japanese plums and come in colors ranging from pale yellow to deep burgundy. Damson plums are a hard-to-find European variety that’s very tart and is frequently used for making jam.
Season: June through September throughout the U.S.; May through October for California
Apricots are known for their distinctive orange color and a tart flavor. This tartness makes them great for baking and cooking in sweet and savory recipes. They have a soft, velvety fuzz on their skin that isn’t as prominent as peach fuzz. Although they’re often available dried, apricots are also great for snacking on fresh. Royal Blenheim, which has a delicate sweetness, is one of the most popular varieties.
Season: May to July for most of the U.S., and into August for Washington, Michigan, and northern states
Pluots, Plumcots, and Apriums
Pluots, plumcots, and apriums are all different names for plum-apricot hybrids, developed for extra sweetness and juiciness. (Learn more about how these different plum-apricot hybrids get their names.) These modern stone fruits were originally bred in California, and although you may find orchards elsewhere trying to grow these hybrids, most are shipped from the Golden State.
Season: June through September throughout the U.S., and May through October for California
Cherries come in many varieties, ranging from dark red Bing cherries and pale blush Rainiers to neon-red sour Montmorency cherries. Although cherries have a short ripening time, growers stagger their varieties, so you’ll be able to find fresh cherries throughout the summer. Sour cherries (AKA tart cherries) are best used for baking and jams since their puckery taste makes them a challenge to eat raw. If you find fresh sour cherries near you, snatch them up — their window of availability is short.
Season (sweet cherries): May-June for California, June-August for most of the U.S.
Season (sour cherries): Late June and July for warmer regions, and into August for cooler parts of the country like Michigan and Washington
Raspberries are beloved for their sweet-tart flavor and tender texture and are easy to grow in backyard patches. Raspberry bushes are actually bramble plants that produce long, vinelike shoots called canes. Depending on the type of cane, raspberries will produce either an early summer crop, peaking in June and July, or a late summer into fall crop, starting in August until the first frost. Black raspberries are a variety of raspberry — not a type of blackberry — and have a similar sweet-tart taste and soft texture, like red raspberries. They’re commonly grown in the Pacific Northwest and have a short growing season around July.
Season: June through October, depending on the plant
Blackberries can have a bit more “pop” to their texture than raspberries and grow on a bramble plant just like raspberries do. They have a delicate sweetness that can sometimes take on a bitter or soapy flavor if the berries are picked before they’re ripe. Boysenberries are a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry, most often grown in Oregon and on the Pacific Coast.
Season: June through September for most of the U.S., with southern states like Florida seeing crops in early spring and the Pacific Northwest getting berries until the first frost.
Mulberries are similar in color to blackberries but are larger and more oval in shape and grow on trees instead of bushes. They’re rarely sold in supermarkets, but can be found at some farmers markets or growing wild. You can also find white and red mulberry varieties throughout the eastern United States. White mulberries tend to be the sweetest, while darker-hued mulberries are more tart, and are said to have a “woodsy” flavor.
Persian mulberries look similar to blackberries, with large, glossy drupelets (those are the tiny “berries” that make up each berry). They can be a deep indigo-black color or pale white. You can find them all along the West Coast, where they ripen throughout the summer.
Season: June through August is peak season for most of the U.S., although southern states will see late spring harvests and northern states can extend the season into September.
Find more about your region’s peak stone fruit season in this Seasonal Food Guide.