What is a Clingstone Fruit?
A clingstone fruit is a stone fruit with flesh which adheres to the surface of the pit, sometimes making it difficult to remove. In contrast, a freestone fruit has an easily removed pit, and a semi-clingstone fruit is a hybrid of the two. Many fruit cultivators specifically breed varieties of fruit with free or clingstone characteristics, as there are advantages and disadvantages to each style. In the market, it can be hard to tell the difference between cultivars unless they are clearly labeled.
Before examining the difference between clingstone and freestone fruits, it helps to know what a a stone fruit is in the first place. A stone fruit is any type of fruit with a pit or stone in the middle. Some well known examples are cherries, peaches, and plums. The stone is actually the seed of the fruit, and if allowed to develop naturally, it may produce a new tree. The tree may or may not resemble the parent, which is why most fruit trees are grown through grafting and cuttings, rather than started from seed.
The classic example of a clingstone fruit is the peach. Many readers are undoubtedly familiar with the stubbornly clinging flesh of a clingstone peach. When a peach is being eaten out of hand or sliced for a puree or jam, mangling the fruit to get the pit out is not a big issue. However, when uniform and attractive slices of fruit are needed, the clinging pit can be very frustrating. Fortunately, freestone varieties are available for this very need.
Trees are always clearly marked as freestone or clingstone when they are sold, but this does not help consumers in the marketplace, as they cannot see the parent tree. In the realm of peaches, fortunately, many cultivars are known for bearing either freestone or clingstone fruit. Some common freestone peaches include Redtop, Elegant Lady, O'Henry, Angelus, Bounty, Cresthaven, J.H. Hale, and M.A. White. Many peaches sent to market are freestone fruits, since consumers tend to prefer them, although the flavor of clingstone fruit tends to be more complex than in freestone fruits.
In addition to peaches, numerous other stone fruits come in freestone and clingstone varieties. Plums, apricots, cherries, and nectarines are often available in both configurations. If you are not sure about whether a fruit is a clingstone or not, ask the grocer about it. At a farmers' market, the farmer may also be able to provide additional information about the fruit, such as its history and a flavor profile.
I prefer to eat fruit that doesn't have clingstones. Even with freestone fruit, you have a large gap in the middle where the pit was, so I like eating fruit with tiny seeds, because there is more to them.
Apples have such little seed that pop out so easily. You really get a lot of fruit out of one piece. Watermelons and oranges are the same way. You just have to flick off the little seeds here and there.
I tried eating a clingstone plum once, but it seemed that there was more stone than plum! I really felt cheated out of my money.
Clingstones really don't bother me, because I've been eating the fruit from around them all my life. My neighbor has several clingstone peach trees that hang over onto my property, so I am allowed to have the ones that drop onto my side of the line, and I generally eat quite a few during peach season.
My favorite clingstone fruit is cherries, though. I never try to get all the flesh off of the pit, because that would be too tedious. I just put a cherry in my mouth and chew the flesh from around it before spitting it out.
The little bit of flesh that clings to the pit really isn't worth fretting over. Even the slightly bigger amount that clings to the center of a peach doesn't trouble me, because it doesn't taste as good as the part that is easy to get to, anyway.
@JackWhack – I feel the same way! I just discovered freestone nectarines a few years ago, and I ended up planting a nectarine tree of the same variety.
It's great to know that I will have a harvest of nectarines without clingstones every year. Like you, I prefer to slice them and remove the pits before eating them, and with the freestone variety, this is quick and easy.
I asked an expert at a garden center for advice before selecting a nectarine tree. I wanted to be sure that I got the freestone kind. I would have been very disappointed if the fruit had turned out to have clingstones in the middle!
I didn't know that there were clingstone and freestone peach tree varieties! I have always hated dealing with the pesky pit, and if I had known that there was a type of peach that didn't cling to its pit, I would have bought it instead.
Most people just eat around the pit of a fruit, but I like to remove it before biting into it, just in case I misjudge the distance between the outside and the center. With a peach, this is so hard to do, especially if you want to preserve as much fruit as possible.
I am going to start looking for freestone peaches. It's great to know that such a thing exists!
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