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The Stone fruits of summer

The scent of ripening peaches spurs Katherine’s musings on the botany
of stone fruits

Fragrant peaches ripening on window sills and countertops pull me right back into the heart of my childhood summers.  They always arrived in a huge box from Georgia, sent by my grandmother in the hope of drawing my parents back to their native state. Her other lures included Vidalia onions in April and Claxton fruitcakes in November, but peaches were definitely her best shot. The peaches were gorgeous, and their ripe flavor was incredibly complex and vivid, but their peak was ephemeral.  After my sister and I had spread them all out on newspapers, the whole sprawling array had to be checked at least two times a day and sorted by ripeness. Peaches were never allowed to touch each other.  On some hot days, peach tending took on the urgency of triage, with fruits passing from ripe to “sharp” to downright alcoholic in one long afternoon.

Peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, and cherries are sometimes called stone fruits because of their pits, or stones.  Along with almonds, they are all in the genus Prunus which belongs to the Rose family – Rosaceae.  Several other familiar fruits come from the rose family but are not stone fruits. Continue reading