Your guide to Australian stone fruit (and how to cook it) February 15, 2019

by Jamie Eat

They’re juicy, they’re sweet, and they’re in season right now. Read on for some ideas on how to take full advantage of these delicious Aussie fruits!

What are stone fruits?

Also known as drupes, stone fruits are thin-skinned, warm-weather fruits with a succulent, soft flesh and — as their name suggests — a hard seed, pit, or stone in the middle. They’re in peak season from November through April, which means now is the time to embrace these beauties for all their flavour and goodness as they are and in both sweet and savoury dishes. Summer stone fruits are rich source of vitamins A, C and E and a good source of dietary fibre and potassium.

Australian stone fruit

Australian summer stonefruit is produced in approximately 26 regions in all states across the country. Victoria and New South Wales are the largest producers of stone fruit, however South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia are also important production states.

DID YOU KNOW? Production has risen by approximately 25% over the last decade to over 100,000 tonnes per annum produced by about 1,200 growers!

1. Plums

fresh plums

How to select: Plums are far more diverse than their summer stonefruit relatives. Plums can be as small as a cherry or as large as a baseball. They come round, elongated, or heart-shaped and there are about nine varieties of plums grown in Australia. Opt for ones that are well coloured and firm to the touch, without major blemishes.

How to store: Ripen at room temperature for a few days. Once ripe, refrigerate for up to four to five days.

Nutritional claim to fame: Vitamin A to keep your eyes and bones healthy and potassium to help regulate blood pressure.

Pairs well with: Allspice, cinnamon, honey, nutmeg, orange, red or white wine, yoghurt.

Did you know? Some plum varieties are specifically bred so they can be dried and still retain their sweetness and these are used for prunes.

RECIPE: Almond Plum Tart

When it comes to tarts, this is as easy as can be. Just whip together the condensed milk and cream cheese, layer on the plums, and bake. We included ingredients and instructions for homemade crust, but feel free to use a store-bought puff pastry if you’re short on time.

Almond Plum Tart

What You’ll Need
For the crust:
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3-4 tablespoons cold water

For the filling:
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
3 tablespoons cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4-5 plums, thinly sliced
slivered almonds

Method 
1. Preheat oven to 180C. Cut butter into chunks and add to a bowl with flour and salt. Use a food processor to pulse until just barely combined but still slightly crumbly. Transfer dough to a bowl to form a ball, adding ice water as necessary. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 30 minutes.
2. Remove dough from fridge and allow it to come to room temperature before rolling out on a lightly floured surface. Transfer to tart pan, press down, and prick a few times with a fork (to prevent air bubbles from forming while it’s baking). Place in oven and bake 5-8 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, add condensed milk and cream cheese to a mixing bowl and beat until smooth. Add almond and vanilla extract and mix to incorporate.
4. Remove crust from oven and let cool slightly before pouring in mixture. Layer fruit on top, sprinkle with almonds, and bake until golden, 20-25 minutes.

2. Peaches

fresh peaches

How to select: Keep an eye out for intensely fragrant fruit that gives slightly to pressure, while avoiding ones with signs of greening. The stem end of the peach should be yellow or cream coloured.

How to store: Refrigerate ripe peaches in a plastic bag for up to five days. Not ripening fast enough? Place in a paper bag with a few small holes and set aside at room temperature for a couple of days. To speed up the process even further, toss in a banana. The ethylene gas it emits will cause your peaches to ripen faster.

Nutritional claim to fame: Vitamin C to boost your immunity and an added boost of vitamin A.

Pairs well with: Almonds, cinnamon, ginger, honey, pistachios, pork, poultry, vanilla, walnuts and cream.

Did you know? Peaches fall into one of two categories: freestone (stone or pit falls easily away from the flesh) or clingstone (fruit adheres more strongly to the pit).

RECIPE: Fetta & Chicken Salad with Charred Peaches & Almonds

The natural sweetness of the peaches pairs perfectly with fetta cheese, roasted almonds, and tender chicken. Get the recipe here.

chicken salad with peaches

3. Nectarines

Fresh nectarines

How to select: Look for fragrant, brightly coloured fruit that gives slightly to pressure. Avoid those with large bruises or ones that are overly green.

How to store: Ripen at room temperature for a few days. Once ripe, refrigerate for up to five days.

Nutritional claim to fame: Same deal as peaches – packed with vitamins C and A.

Pairs well with: Almonds, hazelnuts, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, lemon, lime, basil, mint, vanilla.

Did you know? Nectarine flesh is sweeter and firmer than that of the peach. It also boasts a smooth skin compared to the fuzzy exterior of peaches.

Grilled Honey Peaches

Try grilling with a drizzle of honey which transforms juicy nectarines from sweet to nearly candy-like and serve with vanilla ice cream for the above mouthwatering dessert.

Or, if you’re looking for a savoury option give some slices a quick flash in a hot pan and place atop a piece of toasted baguette, with a spread of tangy goats’ cheese with a drizzle of balsamic glaze – your bruschetta game just stepped up another notch!

4. Apricots

fresh apricots

How to select: Select plump fruit with a vibrant golden orange colour while avoiding ones that are paler or greenish yellow. Keep in mind that minor blemishes that don’t break the skin won’t affect quality.

How to store: If unripe, store at room temperature for a few days, placing in a closed paper bag to speed up the process. Refrigerate ripe apricots unwashed in a paper or plastic bag for two to three days.

Nutritional claim to fame: Dietary fibre, vitamin A, and iron.

Pairs well with: Cardamom, honey, lamb, orange, pork, poultry, vanilla.

Did you know? In Latin, apricot means ‘precious’, a label earned because it ripens earlier than other stone fruit.

RECIPE: Apricots with Greek Yoghurt, Pecans, and Mint

A fresh, light, and easy dessert perfect for those long summer nights. Feel free to grill if you’d rather not heat up the oven.

Grilled Apricots

What You’ll Need
4 apricots, halved and pitted
Honey
Greek yoghurt
Pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
Mint, chopped

Method
1. Preheat oven grill. Drizzle apricot halves with honey and grill until caramelised and tender, 4-5 minutes.
2. Remove from oven and top with Greek yoghurt, pecans, and mint

5. Mangoes

fresh mangoes

How to select: The best way to buy a mango is to simply use your nose. A ripe fresh mango should have a fragrant tropical aroma. A ripe mango will be firm and give slightly to the touch so avoid mangoes that are hard, very soft or bruised. Avoid mangoes that are wrinkled or shrivelled as they will be overripe with an unpleasant fermented flavour.

How to store: Leave at room temperature until ripe – then store in the fridge for up to four days.

Nutritional claim to fame: Vitamins A and C.

Pairs well with: Avocado, chicken, coriander, cucumber, lime, pineapple, passionfruit.

Did you know? Mangoes were first grown in India over 5,000 years ago.

6. Cherries

fresh cherries

How to select: Look for firm, bright, and glossy cherries with red or purple colour (the deeper the colour, the sweeter the taste) and crisp, green stems. Avoid cherries that are shrivelled or dull, as well as ones with dark and brittle stems.

How to store: Refrigerate for 1-2 days and wash just before using.

Nutritional claim to fame: Potassium (to help lower blood pressure), anthocyanin (to combat inflammation), and melatonin (to help establish regular sleep patterns).

Pairs well with: Almonds, chocolate, cinnamon, pork, red wine, sour cream, yoghurt.

Did you know? The Australian cherry season lasts just 100 days!

RECIPE: Herbed Goat’s Cheese and Cherry Balsamic Crostini

If goat’s cheese is involved, we’re probably not that far away. But goat’s cheese and cherries? Say no more.

Goat’s Cheese and Cherry Crostini

What You’ll Need
Thick baguette slices, toasted
Olive oil
1/2 cup goats’ cheese
1/4 cup mixed herbs (basil, chives, dill, and parsley), chopped
Salt and pepper
3 cups cherries, halved and pitted
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Method
1. Preheat oven to 180ºC. Place baguette slices on baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Bake until browned and crisp, 5-8 minutes. Set aside to let cool.
2. Stir together goat cheese and herbs. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat.
Add cherries and balsamic vinegar. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5-6 minutes until slightly softened. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Spread baguette slices with herbed goat’s cheese and top with a spoonful of balsamic-glazed cherries.

Storage Tip!

1# Freeze your stone fruit
Have you got some leftover stone fruit or some that’s a bit on the edge? Try freezing it for a later date and using it in your winter desserts. Follow these simple steps for the best result…

1. Drop the fruit into boiling water for 30 seconds, plunge into cool water, then remove the skin
2. Slice open and remove the pits – the pits can make the fruit a slightly bitter during freezing
3. Place in an airtight container and pop in the freezer. They will last for up to a year!

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