Avocados, peaches, nectarines, olives, dates, and mangoes all have one thing in common: Each has a pit that needs to be removed before you use the fruit in a recipe. While pitting fruits is by no means difficult, different styles of fruits require different approaches to removing the pit. We'll give you tips and tricks for each.
What is a Pit?
Soft, fleshy fruits with pits in the middle are known as "stone fruits" or "drupes." The pits themselves are made of the seed of a fruit surrounded by a hard shell. Fruit pits are inedible.
Note that if you're enjoying the fruit to eat out of hand, you do not necessarily have to pit the fruit. Generally, you can eat around the pits of cherries, peaches, nectarines, plums, and olives. So go ahead and pack unpitted peaches, plums, and nectarines in a picnic basket. Serve unpitted olives on an appetizer buffet, or offer a big bowl of unpitted cherries on a dessert buffet. Just be sure to provide a convenient receptacle for the pits.
The easiest way to pit cherries is with a cherry pitter, a handy gadget available at kitchen supply stores. Here's how to use one:
- Wash and drain the cherries well in a colander. Remove the stems of cherries -- simply pull them off the fruit.
- Place one cherry, stem end up, into the center of the open-hole tray of the cherry pitter.
- Holding the pitter over a bowl, squeeze the handles of the cherry pitter together, and allow the pit to fall into the bowl.
- Remove the pitted cherry from the holder, and repeat as needed with the remaining cherries.
While a cherry pitter removes the pit cleanly and quickly, if you don't have one, you can use these other common household items to remove those pesky pits. In both cases, work over a bowl to catch the pits.
- Paper Clip Method: Remove the stem from the washed cherry. Holding the cherry stem side up, insert the lower end of the paper clip into the stem end of the cherry. Working the clip like a hook to get underneath the pit of the cherry, pull the pit upward and back out through the stem end of the fruit.
- Drinking Straw Method: Remove the stem from the washed cherry. Holding the cherry stem side up, push a drinking straw through the top of the cherry through the bottom of the fruit, driving out the pit as you go.
If your olives are small (about the size of a cherry), they can be pitted with a cherry pitter (see instructions, above). For other olives, it's easy to remove the pits simply using your hands.
- Place the olives on a clean, flat surface, such as a cutting board.
- Press each olive with your thumb to flatten the olive while cracking it open. If the olive has a hard flesh that clings to the pit, use the smooth end of a meat mallet to crush the olive.
- Using your thumb and forefinger, grasp each side of the olive and pull the olive apart, exposing the pit. Remove the pit. If the olive does not pull apart easily, use a paring knife to cut the pit away from the flattened olive.
Note that some olives, such as Cerignola olives, are difficult, if not impossible, to pit. Serve these as appetizers, keeping a bowl handy for discarding the pits. Be sure to warn your guests if the olives you serve are unpitted.
To remove the pit from a date, cut a slit into the side of the date, from the top end to the bottom end, then pry the pit out with the knife.
To pit a mango, first take a look at its shape. You'll notice it has a broad, flat side. That shows you the shape of the seed at its center, and gives you an indication of how you'll want to cut around it.
- Wash the mango under cool running water and dry with paper towels.
Using a sharp knife, slice all the way through the mango next to the seed (in the photo, directional, the seed is just next to the knife, toward the fruit's center).
- Repeat on the other side of the seed. This will result in two larger pieces of fruit.
- Cut away all the fruit that remains around the seed.
For more information on mangoes, see How to Peel a Mango.
The key to pitting these fruits is a light hand -- you'll want to keep the soft fruit bruise-free and intact, while getting that stubborn pit out. Here's how:
- Wash the fruit under cool running water and pat dry with paper towels.
- Using a sharp paring knife, slice into the stem end of the fruit until you reach the pit. Rotate the peach around the paring knife so that you're cutting the fruit all the way around the pit into two halves.
- Set down your knife. Grasp one half of the fruit in each hand and gently twist the halves in opposite directions. The halves will separate, and the pit will remain in one of the halves. (Note that the pits of some nectarines may be particularly clingy, making it difficult to pry the fruit into two pieces. If this is the case, cut the nectarines into smaller sections, cutting them away from the pit as you go.)
- Use your paring knife to loosen the top and bottom of the pit from the fruit. At this point you can usually use your thumb and forefingers to remove the pit from peaches. For nectarines, use the tip of the knife to pry the pit from the fruit.
A slice and a twist are all that stands between removing the pit of an avocado from its rich, buttery flesh. Here's how to do it:
- Rinse the avocado under cool running water and pat dry with paper towels.
- Using a sharp chef's knife, cut through the avocado lengthwise through the flesh and to the seed. Rotate the fruit around the knife so that you've cut the avocado into two halves, all the way around the avocado
- Separate the halves by placing one hand on each side of the avocado and twisting in opposite directions. The seed will remain in one of the halves.
- To remove the seed, carefully tap it with the blade of the chef's knife. You don't need to strike with a lot of force, as the blade will easily catch itself into the seed, which is a bit softer than it looks.
- Rotate the knife to lift out the seed.