Cherry Delicious

5 Ways to eat local, organic cherries—while they last.

Okay, so songster Neil Diamond wasn’t crooning about stone fruit in his 1960s hit song "Cherry, Cherry," but he could have been. These bright, healthy, versatile and delicious fruits are truly addictive (just as Neil suggested when he sang, “Cherry, babe, you really get to me”). And right now, at the height of summer, they’re filling markets across the country—making them a terrific choice for local eating.

Canadian orchards, many of them certified organic, produce dozens of varieties of sweet and sour cherries throughout the summer months—and this year promises to yield a bumper crop. In British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, you can stock up on yellow-fleshed Rainiers, an early variety, in June; then, in mid-August, it’s time for heart-shaped, deep red Staccato cherries. Another way to get your fill is to spend a day at a U-pick in Ontario’s Niagara region, Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley or Saskatchewan. (The prairie province has a long history of cherry breeding and growing: the best-known cultivars being dwarf sour cherries called the University of Saskatchewan and Carmine Jewel.)

Other people have covered the health benefits of cherries, a so-called “superfruit”; they’re shiny red skins are rich in anthocyanins and other antioxidant compounds. So let’s concentrate how to eat this summer bounty. Recipes calling for sweet and sour cherries abound. Here are some of our favourites.

1. Sweet and Spicy

Food in Canada magazine cited tart cherries and cayenne as a top flavour pairing for 2009. Test the trend with this recipe.

Spicy Thai Noodles
7 oz (200g) rice noodles
2 green onions, sliced
¼ cup (60 mL) dried cherries, roughly chopped
¼ cup (60 mL) peanuts, crushed
4 Tbsp (60 mL) soy sauce
Juice of ½ a lime
1-2 red chilies
7 large basil leaves, sliced
1/3 cup (80 mL) cilantro, chopped

Cook noodles as directed. Rinse in cold water, then drain.
Mix the noodles with the green onions, dried cherries, soy sauce, lime juice, chilies, basil leaves and cilantro. Chill and serve with crushed peanuts.
Prep time: 20 minutes

2. Good Mornin’ Cherry

Boost this breakfast classic with tart cherries.

Cherry Homefries
5 medium potatoes cut into 1-inch cubes
1 onion, sliced
2/3 (160 mL) or 1 cup (250 mL) dried tart cherries
3 Tbsp (45 mL) olive oil (plus 1-2 extra if needed)
1-2 tsp (5 -10 mL) crushed red chilies (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the onions and cherries over low-medium heat for 15 minutes or until the onions become a deep brown (but not charred).
As the onions are cooking, boil the potatoes in salted water until fork tender.
Add the potatoes to the skillet with the onions (use extra oil if needed) and sauté for 5 minutes on high to crisp up the potatoes
Season with salt, pepper and chilies to taste.
Prep time: 30 minutes

3. Summer Salad

Mesclun and Cherry Salad with Warm Goat Cheese: Cherries, fennel, almonds and goat cheese make an irresistible salad, courtesy of Okanagan Valley producer Jealous Fruits.

4. Fire up the Bar-B

Barbequed Cherries with Toasted Walnuts: The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada created this unique summertime treat.

5. Pie One On

Cherry Pie with Sugar Crumb Topping: Niagara-based company Cherry Lane has perfected the pie.