The DeLish Bite

Lindsay Evans blogs about food, entertaining and her favourite recipes for Green Living.

Cherries Description

Bright and vibrant Cherries have been around since the beginning of time, or just about. Fruit of the cherry tree, they are thought to have originated from north-east Asia. Nowadays, cherries are grown all over the world, including right here in Canada (which incidentally makes them a great choice for us localvores!) Each spring cherry trees bloom beautiful white flowers that eventually turn into plump and ripe cherries. Sweet and juicy, cherries are fleshy round fruit with a smooth skin and contain a single stony seed. They grow in clusters and have very long stems. There are three existing species of cherries:

Sweet Cherries:

• These are rather large, plump, round cherries. • They are usually red (bright red or dark, almost reddish-black), sometimes yellow. • They have a sweet, juicy flesh. • There are more than 500 known varieties.

Sour Cherries:

• Sour cherries are smaller than the sweet variety. • They are a beautiful vibrant red. • Their fragrance is more delicate and subtle than the sweet cherry. • They have a soft, bitter tasting flesh that is perfect for cooking. • However, depending on variety and ripeness, some cherries can be enjoyed fresh. • There are more than 250 cultivars.

Wild Cherries:

• Wild cherries are the smallest of all. • They are dark in colour and have very little flesh. • Because of their astringent properties, they have a rather unpleasant aftertaste. • They are also referred to as pin cherries.

Health Benefits

While their great taste may be deceiving, cherries are one of nature’s best superfoods. They are filled with powerful nutrients and antioxidants that research suggests may help people live a longer, healthier life. In fact, a growing body of science reveals that cherries, enjoyed as either dried, frozen, fresh or as cherry juice, have an extremely high level of disease-fighting antioxidants, when compared to other fruits. These antioxidants may help alleviate pain, promote a healthy heart, prevent cancer and keep the body performing at its best. Cherries also contain melatonin, which has been found to help regulate the body’s natural sleep patterns, aid with jet lag, prevent memory loss and delay the aging process. Finally, they also contain other important nutrients such as beta carotene, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, iron, fiber and folate.

Cherries, Arthritis and Pain Relief:

Cherries may help alleviate pain and inflammation associated with arthritis and gout, the most severe form of arthritis.

Cherries and Heart Health:

One of the many health benefits of cherries is that they contain powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins (like those found in red wine), which may reduce a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease. They also help protect the heart and surrounding tissue, inhibit plaque formation and reduce inflammation.

Cherries and Cancer Prevention:

Fiber, vitamin C, carotenoids and anthocyanins – cherries are packed with cancer-preventing compounds. The antioxidant properties found in cherries neutralize free radicals and protect cells from the carcinogens that cause different types of cancer.

Cherries and Diabetes:

The high antioxidant properties of cherries and low glycemic index score combine to make cherries a valuable food for diabetes patients. In fact, cherries have a considerably lower G.I. score than many other fruits, including apricots, blueberries and plums. Because of this, cherries are thought to help boost insulin production and help control a person’s blood sugar levels.

Cherries and Brain Health:

Cherries are one of the few foods that contain melatonin. In addition to helping regulate sleep patterns, melatonin is an important antioxidant that helps maintain optimum brain functioning and may deter the onset of age-related chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Buying, Storing and Preparing

Follow these few tips to buy, store and prepare the freshest cherries: • Choose fruit that are plump and firm with a shiny, dark coloured skin, with a fresh stem still attached. • Remember that once a cherry is picked the ripening process stops – that’s why light coloured cherries aren’t your best choice (unless the chosen variety produces light coloured fruit at maturity). • Immediately refrigerate cherries since they are a very delicate fruit and will quickly deteriorate at room temperature. Stored in a perforated plastic bag to maintain moisture, they can be kept fresh for a few days. The firmer the cherry’s flesh, the longer it will keep and conversely, when the fruit is soft, it should be enjoyed rapidly. • Because cherries tend to absorb surrounding food odours and this affects their flavour, it's best to store them away from highly scented foods. • Cherries, whether pitted or not, can be frozen. • Wash cherries just before eating or cooking. Do not let them soak. Stay tuned for tips on how to enjoy cherries along with a fabulous summer-time recipe!