RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—June is when domestically grown fresh cherries start showing up in produce aisles, farmer’s markets, and roadside farm stands. And thank goodness for that; they taste so much better, and are more moist, when they’re fresh. If you look forward to snacking on a handful of fresh cherries, you owe it to yourself to try some of our recipes with cherries on the ingredient list.
Though sweet cherries are the easiest to find, cherries actually come in three types: sweet (Prunus avium), sour (P. cerasus), and wild (P. avium). The large, heart-shaped sweet cherries include the deep-burgundy Bing, and the yellow-with-red-blushes Rainier. Sour versions include the bright-red Montmorency and the smaller Morello; people favor these tart varieties for pies and preserves.
Whether you’re buying creamy yellow Rainiers or red Montmorencys, look for shiny, firm, plump cherries with their stems attached (the cherries stay fresher this way) and skin unbroken. Prep is easy. Simply wash with cool water just before serving. To remove the pits, use a small paring knife or a paperclip, or simply pick out the pit with your fingers. To remove the pits for conserves, jams, and other dishes that call for lots of cherries, try a mechanical cherry pitter. Cherries are delicious eaten plain out of the bag, of course, and are exquisite in classic desserts like cherry pie and Black Forest cake. But not all recipes with cherries are desserts. The fruit also adds a wonderful flavor kick to savory dishes.
The reasons to add some recipes with cherries to your meal plan go beyond this fruit's fantastic flavor. Juicy, delicious cherries are a great source of fiber, immune-boosting vitamin C, and disease-fighting antioxidants. In fact, a cup of Bing cherries contains more antioxidant power than a small piece of dark chocolate or three ounces of almonds, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. For this reason, cherries are good options for helping to fight inflammation, as well as cancer and heart disease. Scientists believe that anthocyanins, the compounds that give cherries their red hue, can help decrease blood uric acid levels, which may in turn help lower heart attack and stroke risk, according to a recent USDA/University of California study. You can get these anthocyanins from sour cherries, too, as well as cherry juice, and frozen, canned, or dried cherries.
Eating organically grown food is always smart, but especially with cherries. Unfortunately they’re on the Environmental Working Group's "dirty dozen" list of the 12 foods most commonly contaminated with high levels of pesticides, even after washing and peeling. The chemical pesticides detected in these studies are known to cause cancer, birth defects, damage to the nervous system, and developmental problems in children. On average, conventionally grown cherries are treated with 25 different pesticides, and 91 percent of cherries recently tested registered pesticide contamination above safe levels. So, go organic!