What’s the Deal with Pits?
Can you eat them? Should you cook with them in or out of the fruit? Are they good for anything else? Seriously, we have so many questions about stone fruit pits.
It’s not uncommon to hear the term “stone fruit” tossed around quite often, but what does that category of produce actually encompass? Well, by definition, a stone fruit (or in botanical terms, a drupe), is a fruit that bears a pit in the center (#makes #sense). When it comes to these hard, inedible centers, there are plenty of looming question marks. Do they affect the flavor of the fruit? Is there anything that you can do with them? Should you cook with the fruit pitted or unpitted? SO. MANY. PIT. QUESTIONS.
The common assumption is that these pits, whether it’s in a cherry, olive, peach, plum, or avocado, are not edible. This logic stems from the fact that most stone fruit pits contain low levels of amygdalin, which breaks down to hydrogen cyanide when digested, so it would make sense to avoid ingesting large amounts of these. However, this is one of those situations that you could argue that anything is poisonous if you consume enough of it, right? In other words, you don’t need to live in paralyzing fear that an accidentally-swallowed cherry pit or using a pit-infused vinegar is going to kill you. Some will even go as far to encourage you to eat your avocado pits. It’s your call, pit master.
Even though you’re not straight up chomping down on your stone fruit pits, that doesn’t make them inherently useless. In fact, these hard centers can often be used in vinegars, liqueurs, and extracts. The pits are highly aromatic, slightly bitter, and offer a unique flavor when broken down. Before you banish them to the compost bin, don’t be shy to experiment with them first.
As far as what point it’s appropriate to pit your stone fruits, this comes down to your personal preference. Obviously, eating anything with a rock hard center that you need to strategically eat around is inconvenient, cumbersome, and requires a certain level of etiquette if you’re doing it around other folks. That being said, if you’re buying pitted olives or pitting your cherries far in advance, by the time you get around to actually eating said stone fruit, the structure of the fruit is inevitably going to suffer without the pit supporting it from the center. The flavor of the fruit itself won’t change dramatically, but removing the pit in anything will cause it to become saggy and deflated (which is sad, don’t you think?).
If you’re going to be cooking with a stone fruit, the same question lingers—pit in or pit out? While it seems intuitive to take that pit out before you embark on your cooking adventures (who wants to fish a pit out of a soft, roasted peach?), some will argue that leaving the pit in the fruit is the equivalent to leaving the bone in your meats while they cook. The logic is that in leaving the pits in during the cooking process, the pits will leech an added aromatic essence to the rest of the fruit, making for that much of a richer, deeper flavor.
Ultimately, the art of understanding and taming your pitted fruits is one of trial and error. It’s a matter figuring out what works best for you and if you’re up for it, playing around with new and unlikely ways to use those pits. Whether you’re an unpitted purist or give no f*cks about your pitting tendencies, we support you (like the pit supports the fruit) on all of your stone fruit endeavors.