Peaches, Pluots, and Plums, oh my!
Stone fruits are categorized as fruits that have a hard pit in the center surrounded by flesh. This means that everything from peaches to dates and even olives are considered stone fruits, or drupes. Peaches have always been one of my favorite fruits, and since moving to Southern California I have become absolutely obsessed with pluots and apriums. It’s a wonderful time of year when they start popping up in my local markets.
There are many varieties of stone fruit that flourish in the Southern California climate. Peaches, apriums, pluots, apricots, plums, and olives are some great options for the San Diego backyard grower. The fleshy, sweet fruits, like pluots, do well in mild winter climates as long as they are well fertilized and their roots are not allowed to dry out. It is also important to plant these fruit trees in pairs (or more) for pollination purposes. These trees should be planted in the winter (December–March) in order to produce fruit the following year. Fertilize new trees every month and be wary of symptoms of root fungus like yellowing leaves, poor growth, and premature leaf drop.
Olives and date palms thrive in dry, hot climates, which means that much of Southern California is a great place for them. Olive trees can be a gorgeous ornamental addition to a yard with the extra benefits of producing table fruit and of course, oil.
The harvesting season for most common stone fruits is late spring through early fall. Apricots, plums, peaches, and nectarines are at their peak in the summer season and are the perfect satisfying treat. For some palates, a ripe apricot is too soft and sweet, while the snappy skin of the plum can be too tart—so try an aprium or a pluot! As their names suggest, these two fruits are hybrids of plums and apricots with the pluot containing more attributes of a plum and apriums consisting more of an apricot.
Unlike these sweet fruits, olives are harvested from September through November in California. Once picked, fresh olives must be used within three days. They can be cured and eaten or pressed for oil.
There are so many ways to enjoy the delicious flavors that stone fruits have to offer. My favorite snack on a sunny San Diego summer day is a fresh, juicy pluot (or two). Its crisp, tart skin and sweet, sunburst-colored flesh are incredibly refreshing. Peaches are so versatile and can be easily used in savory or sweet recipes. This summer, try creating your Caprese salad with a peach instead of the traditional tomato or grilling up some nectarines for a delicious addition to a salad. And don’t forget the classics—pies, cobblers, and crumbles are always crowd-pleasers. Whatever way you decide to savor your stone fruits this upcoming season, remember to support local farmers and California growers. Buying local food is better for the planet and for your plate.