Healthy, Delicious Summer Fruits and Greek Yogurt

The National Herald

Greek yogurt with honey and walnuts is a classic dessert, add some fruit for a summery treat. (Photo by Eleni Sakellis)

Summer fruits are a highlight of seasonal eating this time of year. The wide variety of fruits including nectarines, peaches, and plums, which are all in the rose family along with almonds, cherries, and apricots, offer great options for healthy desserts whether eaten out of hand or incorporated into a quick and refreshing summer dessert.

According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, Statistics Division (FAOSTAT), Greece and the United States tied for fourth place in their annual peach and nectarine production for the year 2014 with about 1 million tons (1 metric ton equals 1,000 kilograms or 2,205 pounds).

Nectarines contain high amounts of beta carotene and potassium, though only a moderate amount of vitamin C compared to other fruits. They are high in pectin, a type of soluble fiber which helps control cholesterol levels in the blood, and the skins contain insoluble fiber which prevents constipation. Nectarines are also rich in bioflavonoids, the antioxidant plant pigments that help protect the body from cancer and other diseases by reducing the damage to cells that happens as the body uses oxygen. Nectarines are sweeter and have more nutritional value than peaches though they are the same species. Nectarines are a genetic variation of the peach without its fuzzy skin which is the dominant trait.

According to the New Oxford Book of Food Plants, peaches were known in Greece from about 300 BC. After conquering Persia, Alexander the Great introduced the fruit to Europe. The scientific name for peaches Prunus persica means Persian plum. There are hundreds of varieties of peaches and nectarines, commonly separated into two categories, freestone and clingstone. The pits of the freestone type are easily removed from the flesh of the fruit while the clingstone pits are embedded in the flesh and are difficult to remove. Peaches are a good source of vitamin A and dietary fiber, and have a useful amount of vitamin C and potassium.

Plums are one of the oldest cultivated fruits and their remains have been found, along with the remains of figs, grapes, and olives, in archeological excavations of Neolithic sites. Plums contain vitamin C, riboflavin and other B vitamins, potassium, and are a good source of dietary fiber including cellulose and pectin. Beginning with the Japanese varieties of plums and ending with the European varieties, they are in season in the U.S. from May through October. Nectarines, peaches, and plums all contain salicylates which can cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to aspirin.

Greek Yogurt and Fruit

1 ripe nectarine

1 ripe peach

1 ripe plum

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 cups Greek yogurt

Greek honey, to taste

1/3 cup chopped walnuts or almonds

Fresh mint leaves to garnish, optional

Wash the fruits and pat dry with a paper towel. Slice the fruits and place in a bowl. Toss with a tablespoon of lemon juice and set aside. Transfer the yogurt to a large serving dish, or individual serving dishes, and top with some of the fruits, a drizzle of honey, and some of the chopped nuts. Garnish with fresh mint leaves, if using, and serve immediately.