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Let Ontario’s fruit dazzle you with flavour and freshness this year!

July 11, 2022

By Lilian Schaer

Summer means tender fruit season in Canada – the time of year when those fresh locally grown fruits are at their tasty, delicious best.

For those wondering what exactly a tender fruit is, it covers a range of fruits that are synonymous with summer: peaches, nectarines, cherries, apricots, plums, and pears. In Ontario, most tender fruit is grown in the Niagara Region and along the shores of Lake Erie where the climate is the warmest to sustain these sensitive crops.

“The 2022 harvest is ramping up with lots of sunshine and heat, which ensures high quality, tree-ripened fruit full of natural sweetness for consumers to enjoy,” says Phil Tregunno, farmer and Chair of the Ontario Tender Fruit Growers. “Having a good amount of moisture means everything will be nice and juicy as well. It’s been an ideal growing season.”

The summer taste sensation begins about mid-July when the first apricots, cherries, peaches, nectarines, and yellow plums start to ripen. Peaches and nectarines can last to about the end of September. Pears and blue plums have a bit of a later season, with the earliest varieties hitting store shelves, fruit stands and markets in mid-to late-August.

Consumers have a lot of fresh fruit choices at this time of year; here are a few facts about each fruit variety that may make those purchase decisions a little bit easier.

Apricots are a small orange fruit whose taste ranges from sweet to tart. They’re and excellent source of provitamin A-beta-carotene, Vitamin C and potassium and each 38 gram serving – that’s the size of an average apricot – has only 20 calories. Their season is short, ranging from mid-July to mid-August.

Ontario’s tart red cherries are the world-renowned Montmorency variety and they’re ideal in pies, sauces, tarts, jams, and desserts. They’re available in the refrigerated section of most grocery stores, sold pitted, chilled, and packed in pails. Montmorency cherries have several linked health benefits; research has shown they ease insomnia, facilitate weight loss, reduce inflammation, relieve arthritis and gout, prevent cardiovascular diseases, lower hypertension, and help with exercise recovery. They’re in season starting mid-July for a very limited time most years.

Peaches and nectarines are sweet, juicy perfection that can be enjoyed fresh or used to make a variety of tasty dishes. Fat and sodium-free, they’re also low in calories – only 40 calories per 87 gram serving – and a great source of iron and vitamins A and C. They’re available from mid-July to the end of September.

Ontario red and yellow plums are of Japanese ancestry, whereas blue varieties trace their roots to Europe. Regardless of their colour or origin, though, they’re perfect for eating fresh with flavours that range from sweet to slightly tart. Two medium plums are about 60 calories, making them a healthy eating choice. They’re also sodium-free, a source of dietary fibre, and Vitamins A and C, and they’re high in antioxidant content. European plums, which are also good for cooking, are available mid- August to end of October, whereas the Japanese plums are around from mid-July to mid-August.

The Ontario tender fruit bounty ends with Ontario pears. Depending on the variety, they’re available from late August through to the Cold Snap pear which can be enjoyed past Christmas (while supplies last) and are an excellent source of fibre and Vitamin C with only 100 calories per 166 gram serving. Pears are also sodium, fat, and cholesterol free and work well in sweet or savoury recipes.

So how do you keep your Ontario tender fruit lasting without sacrificing taste, texture, or appeal? You’ll have great outcomes if you follow these five simple steps to tender fruit perfection:

Step 1: Select fruit that is firm and fragrant.

Step 2: Immediately remove the fruit from container you brought it home in and sort it according to ripeness.

Step 3: Store ripe fruit in the refrigerator or enjoy right away.

Step 4: To ripen firm fruit, store at room temperature and keep it out of direct sunlight in a loosely closed paper bag for 1-2 days. Plastic bags are not suitable for ripening fruit as they will trap moisture and air, which can cause premature spoilage.

Step 5 Once ripe, store fruit in the refrigerator or enjoy right away. Never wash fruit before storing - wait until you're ready to eat.

TIP: Always look for the Foodland Ontario logo in stores to know you’re buying local.

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