Let’s Cheer for Cherries!
By Chelsea Fisher
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 that is 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 savory anti-cancer fruit. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, recent studies have found that cherries provide 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: sour and sweet. Sour cherries have higher concentrations of vitamin C and beta-carotene, but both variations provide almost 20 times more vitamin A – good for eyes and cell growth — than either blueberries or strawberries. Studies have also found that tart cherry juice may aid in muscle recovery and reduce inflammation. 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; 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. Also, remember the darker the cherry the sweeter it will be. If you are as big a fan of cherries as I am, treat yourself to a cherry pitter. We don’t usually recommend single use kitchen gadgets, but this one makes a bowl of cherries into a cherry pie without fuss or too much muss. You can pit olives with a cherry pitter too.
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.