This summer has brought us a superabundance of stone fruit. Mosey through the R&L farm booth and you'll be treated to at least eight different kinds of stone fruit, including white peaches, black plum, pluots and apricots. Stop by Smit farm and you'll find Rainier and black cherries. Savor the flavor of the fruit but don't throw away the pits. Some of us grew up terrified that if we ate the pits they would sprout in our bellies or that we could die. There are so many old wives' tales and myths about fruit pits that it is hard to know what to believe.
So, let's separate fact from fiction. First, most stones, also known as pits, are edible in moderation. Cherry, peach, apricot and nectarine stones are all edible (within moderation). They all have a distinct almond flavor and are, in fact, related to almonds. Crack open the pit and you'll find a soft little kernel that looks, smells and tastes a lot like a tiny almond. Europeans have long prized these hidden treasures, which go by the name "noyaux" in France. The French love to leave cherries unpitted in preserves and desserts like clafouti, so the subtle almond flavor can permeate the fruit. When distilled those kernels produce several famous liqueurs, including kirsch and amaretto.
But the kernels can also have a dark side. They contain a compound that can release cyanide in the body. Our bodies can detoxify small amounts of that compound without a problem. But when consumed in large amounts they can make you very sick. To be safe, always roast the whole pits at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, which helps destroy the cyanide compound and make the shells brittle, so they're easier to crack. Once the kernels are roasted, you can steep them in cream to make almond-scented ice cream. You can grind them, add a little sugar and sprinkle the mixture on your fruit pies, galettes, crisps and cobblers.
Sounds like too much work to get almond flavoring? Stop by the Hopkins AG booth and pick up a variety of flavored, raw and roasted almonds. No matter which you try, the flavor won't be the pits!