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The summer season has finally arrived! Now is the perfect time to add delicious stone fruits to your diet. Indulge in the tastes of sweet juicy fuzzy peaches, smooth sunset skin coloured nectarines, and tangy vibrant orange apricots. These fruits will certainly brighten up your summer, even when the weather may not.
Stone fruits contain pits surrounded by an outer fleshy part. These include plums, cherries, peaches, apricots, almonds, and nectarines. Stone fruits are low calorie fruits that provide an average of 67 kcal per cup of chopped fruit, and contain less than 1g of fat. They contain high levels of dietary fibre, vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, and are an excellent source of potassium. The nutritional qualities of stone fruit provide health benefits that can help improve digestion and lower cholesterol due to high fibre and boost the immune system by their antioxidants vitamin C and A. Levels of calcium in stone fruit can contribute to bone health, and high levels of potassium can aid in decreasing blood pressure and reduce the risk of hypertension or other cardiovascular risks.
Buying and Storing Tips- Choose a peach that is free of blemishes and bruises, with no green hues as it indicates an unripe fruit. The peach should be firm to the touch, but have a little give when under gentle pressure. It should also have a sweet-scented aroma. When peaches are harvested sugar production stops, thus sweetness will not increase when the fruit softens. Peaches should be stored at temperatures of 33 F to 40 F and at high humidity; so placing them in the crisper will provide an optimal environment where they should be used within a few days. Peaches that may need to ripen and soften a little should be stored in a paper bag in a single layer, loosely closed and at room temperature for a day or two. When freezing fresh sliced peaches, place them in freezer bags with sugar, water, and ascorbic acid to provide the best storage for the product. Frozen peaches can last up to a year.
Healthy Ways to Enjoy- Though nothing can beat biting into a fresh, sweet and juicy peach, try adding peach slices to smoothies, onto hot or cold cereals, pancakes, or waffles for a sweeter taste. Grill peaches to bring out their flavour or bake slices and add them to low-fat ice cream or yogurt with cinnamon for a delicious dessert. Add peaches into salsas or chutneys to accompany different meats and poultry or to spice up dips. Blend peaches into juice or toss slices into a summer salad with spinach, goat cheese, pecans and strawberries, all dressed in a citrus honey vinaigrette. Peach cobblers or crisps are other excellent ways to create and enjoy irresistible desserts.
Nutritional Values- 1 large Peach (7cm diameter) has 61 calories, 0.4g fat, 1.4g of protein, 15g carbohydrates, 3.0g fibre, 13.2g sugar, 25.1RAE vitamin A, 10.4mg Vitamin C, 9.4mg calcium, 0.4mg iron, 298mg potassium
Buying and Storing Tips- Like peaches look for nectarines that contain no blemishes, bruises, and portions of green skin, wrinkles or punctures. A nectarine should be plump and rich in reds to yellows depending on the variety. Pick a nectarine that is fragrant, and slightly soft to the touch. Nectarines that are a little under ripe can be stored at room temperature for a couple days out of direct sunlight. When ripe, nectarines can keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, but should to be stored away from certain produce, as they release ethylene, a chemical that causes spoilage. Fresh nectarines can be frozen like peaches, with sugar, water, and ascorbic acid in a plastic bag and stored in the freezer for up to 12 months.
Healthy Ways to Enjoy- Fresh nectarines may be added to smoothies and salads to give colour and flavour. Eat with yogurt and granola for a nice parfait to add to hot or cold cereals, pancakes or waffles, like peaches. Nectarines are superb additions to many baked desserts, and are great in preserves, jams, and salsas.
Nutritional Values- 1 Nectarine (6.4cm diameter) has 60 calories, 0.4g fat, 14.3g carbohydrates, 2.3g fibre, 10.7g sugar, 1.4g protein, 23.1RAE vitamin A, 7.3mg vitamin C, 8.2mg calcium, 0.4mg iron, 273mg potassium
Buying and Storing Tips- When buying apricots choose ones that are bright orange-yellow in colour and are firm, plump, and give when slightly under pressure. Avoid green tinted apricots, those with bruises, and ones that are hard or mushy as they are less flavourful and indicate immaturity or over maturity respectively. Apricots that are slightly under ripe can be placed into paper bags and stored at room temperature in a cool dark place for up to three days. This will help soften the flesh of the apricot but will not increase sweetness as it stops once harvested. Apricots that are ripe should be placed in a plastic food saver bag, stored in the refrigerator and used within a few days.
Healthy Ways to Enjoy- Make your own trail mix using dried apricots and other dried fruits with favourite nuts for a great snack. Blend apricots and milk into a purée and top over low-fat ice cream, frozen yogurt, oatmeal, French toast or waffles. Try adding dried or fresh chopped apricots to brown rice, onions and garlic for sweetened side dishes and salads. Create your own preserves and use as a spread for sandwiches or meats. For a nice cold treat, either add to smoothies or blend with orange juice, freeze in ice trays and enjoy on a nice hot summer day.
Nutritional Values- 1 Apricot has 17 calories, 0.1g fat, 0.4mg sodium, 3.9g carbohydrates, 0.7g fibre, 3.2g sugar, 0.5g protein, 33.6RAE vitamin A, 3.5mg vitamin C, 4.6mg calcium, 0.1mg iron, 90mg potassium