Season for Cherries May - August
From its romantic pink blossoms to its rich succulent fruit, all things cherry are absolutely stunning - for a short time each year unfortunately! And the cherry fruit itsef is as tasty as it is pretty. Cherries fall into two basic categories, those being sweet and sour. The sweet ones can be divided into dark and light varieties, with the Bing reigning supreme. Bing cherries are large, a deep dark purple and exceptionally sweet out of hand. Other popular types are the Lambert with its red heart shape, the Royal Ann which is used to make maraschinos and the Ranier with its combo of yellow and pink hues. Sour cherries tend to be smaller, softer and more globular, and most are too tart to be eaten raw but make for great cooked desserts.
How to Buy and Store Cherries
When shopping for cherries, look for plump, glossy specimens that are firm but not hard. Generally, the deeper the color, the riper and sweeter the fruit. Look for cherries that still have their stems attached, as they tend to be fresher and last longer. Also, make sure your cherries are cool, temperature wise, as warmth can degrade their flavor and texture. At home, be sure to store your unwashed cherries wrapped in the refrigerator for up to five days.
How to Cook Cherries
Sweet cherries, such as the ubiquitous Bing, are best when eaten out of hand, making a delicious dessert themselves or addition to ice cream, parfait, cereal, fruit salad and the like. To pit, cut around the cherry with a small paring knife and split it in half. Pick out the pit with your fingers. Voila. Sour cherries, on the other hand, need to be cooked to be enjoyed (usually). They make delicious pie filling, jams or a decadent Black Forest gâteau. Sour cherries also pair excellently with fatty meats, giving them a decidedly summer flair. Try adding sour cherries to sauces or chop the flesh and add to spicy salsas.
Health Benefits of Cherries
Cherries are burgeoning with antioxidants that fight-off free radicals in the body and may help prevent cancer, heart disease and age-related anything. The deep and vibrant colors in cherries are owing to pigments called anthocyanins which are strong antioxidants. Anthocyanins have powerful anti-inflammatory properties and can help manage pain. Tart cherries have also been found to contain high levels of melatonin, aiding in sleep regulation. Cherries are simply dreamy.
Why Buy Natural and Organic Cherries
Not only does the Environmental Working Group rank cherries among the worst fruit when it comes to levels of pesticide residues, but conventional cherries are often coated with a fungicidal wax to prolong shelf life, a wax that doesn't wash off no matter how hard you try. Be sure to opt for those baskets of cherries that have been grown organically with sustainable practices taken to heart. Also, avoid canned cherries, for the canning process uses the harmful toxin, BPA. And dried cherries, which contain sulfites. Fresh and organic make for the most cherry goodness.