Cherries, peaches, mangoes, lychees, and blackberries all share a common bond: They are nutritious and delicious “stone fruit” (and make perfect pies!). Their seed is sequestered inside a hard stone, or pit, called an endocarp—while the mesocarp is the juicy edible fruit we all love. The multiple “seeds” in blackberries or raspberries are actually their miniature endocarps holding even tinier seeds inside.
Now that we know the basic anatomy of stone fruit (ordrupes), let’s harvest the nutritional benefits of five favorite varieties.
Cherry [Prunus avium (sweet) or P. cerasus (sour)]
Spring cherry blossoms adorn trees that will bear one crop of ruby-red stone fruit per year. This low-calorie summer fruit is high in antioxidants that protect against free radicals, with anti-inflammatory effects that help prevent cancer, aging, and heart disease. The pigment-rich cherry has a melatonin antioxidant that has soothing effects on brain neurons, which can relieve insomnia and headaches. The West Indian, or acerola cherry contains high levels of vitamins C and A, beneficial for immunity and eye health, respectively.
Peach (Prunus persica)
The plump, succulent fruit of a deciduous tree native to Northwest China, the peach (and its cousin the nectarine) is packed with vitamins—including a fair amount of C, for boosting immunity from infections—copper and other minerals, plus phytonutrients like antioxidants and beta-carotene. Carotene converts to vitamin A in the body and is essential for good vision and healthy skin. A study found that peach extract, or two to three peaches a day, may inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells and their spread, thanks to peach polyphenols that help plants protect against the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Mango (Mangifera indica)
The evergreen, tropical flowering species of mango trees, native to South Asia, are prized for their fragrant bounty that is India’s national fruit. While each mango takes three to six months to ripen, the trees can grow up to 131 feet tall and still bear fruit after 300 years! The magnificent mango is one of the most high-powered, nutrient-dense stone fruits—laden with fiber; vitamins A, C, and B-complex; copper; potassium; and a range of antioxidants.
Lychee (Litchi chinensis)
Native to China, the lychee tree bears a small, roundish pink-red berry, with cultivation documented from 1059 AD. Inside the tough, inedible rind is a delicate, juicy white flesh with a perfume-like flavor especially popular in desserts like lychee-coconut “ice cream” (vegan). Lychee is an excellent source of vitamin C, providing 119% of RDA*, and copper required for generating red-blood cells. And, like most stone fruit, it produces antioxidant effects.
Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus)
Nothing says summer better than a bucket of blackberries! Botanically speaking, though, the blackberry isn’t a berry at all but is a “fruit aggregate” composed of small drupelets (with pits inside), growing wild ontangled vines in woods and on hillsides. The tangy fruit is high-fiber and rich in minerals like potassium and copper; vitamins K (for bone and heart health), A, and C; and B-complex vitamins important for metabolizing carbohydrates, protein, and fat in the body.
Summer days seem synonymous with fresh fruit, whether they’re picked from the vine, baked in a cobbler, or blended in stone-fruit smoothies (these look delish). Or, try Veestro organic juices, Keep the Doctor Away and Johnny Appleseed, made with acerola cherries—a nod to stone fruit that, when it comes to sweetness and nutrition, are pure plant joy!
* recommended daily allowance
Umesh Rudrappa, “Fruit Nutrition Facts” (searchable database), Nutrition and You.com