There’s nothing like the iconic cherry when you’re in need of a sweet metaphor: The used car that’s “cherry”; the cherry on top as the perfect finishing touch; the cherry red cheeks that stand for health and happiness. And there’s nothing like a bunch of cherries when you’re looking for a juicy, flavorful anti-cancer fruit.
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, recent studies have found that cherries provide phenolic acid, flavan-3-ols, and anthocyanin, a powerful antioxidant that gives them their red hue, along with major health benefits. For this reason, they have been listed by the AICR as one of their Foods That Fight Cancer.
Nutritionally, cherries can be separated into two categories: sweet and sour, sometimes referred to as tart or “pie” cherries. Sour cherries have higher concentrations of vitamin C and beta-carotene, but both variations provide fiber, as well as almost 20 times more beta-carotene (good for eyes and cell growth) than either blueberries or strawberries. Sounds like it might be time to have everything with that metaphoric cherry on top.
Cherries are the welcome fruit of early summer, and they proudly take their place in cobblers and picnic baskets from May through August. Bing, Lambert, Rainer, Montmorency, and Royal Ann are the most widely available varieties; and each one has a unique taste.
Fresh cherries should be plump, blemish-free, and shiny. Sweet cherries should be firm, but not hard, and sour cherries should feel medium firm. Avoid buying any cherries that seem soft, bruised or have brown patches. Try to buy cherries with the stems attached, as cherries without stems can be prone to mold. Also, remember the darker the cherry the sweeter it will be.
A reliable way to remove a cherry pit is by making a cut along the side of a cherry with a small knife, gently squishing it with the flat side of your knife, and gently nudging out the pit. Although we don’t typically recommend single-use tools, a cherry pitter can be tidier, and helpful for speeding up prep time if you’re working with larger quantities.
As with many fruits and vegetables, the skin is the most nutritious part of cherries, so leave it on for the most benefit. If it’s not the season for fresh cherries, frozen or dried ones are a great addition to meals any time of year and provide the same nutritional benefits.
Try our classic Cherry Pie recipe. For something quick and easy make our Cherry Compote and put it over a little plain yogurt. Cherries also add a delicious sweetness to salads, such as in our Brussels Sprouts with Pecans and Dried Cherries recipe.