Cherries

You can find imported cherries among your grocer's produce offerings most of the year, but their freshness and taste just don't match locally grown. In season locally for such a short time, cherry lovers anticipate this time of year with great excitement. Now is the time to enjoy cherries for their delicious sweet taste and nutritional benefits.

Cherries

Nutrition Notes

Sweet cherries are noted for their soluble fibre (called pectin), vitamins A and C, potoassium and potent antioxidants such called anthocyanins.

Nutrient contnt of 1 cup (250 ml) sweet cherries (with pits):

calories 87
Protein 1.5 g
Carbohydrate 22 g
Fibre 3 g
Potassium 306 mg
Vitamin C 10 mg
Vitamin A 88 IU

Source: United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 27

Varieties

Cherries come in two main types: sweet and sour/tart.

Sweet cherries are larger and heart-shaped. They can be enjoyed freshly picked and are also excellent cooked. They range in colour from golden, red-blushed (Royal Ann) to dark red or purplish black (Bing, Lambert and Tartarian).

Sour cherries are smaller, softer and more globular in shape than sweet cherries. Unlike sweet cherries, most sour varieties are too tart to eat raw, but they are excellent in pies and preserves. Varieties of sour cherries include Early Richmond (bright red; first to be available in late spring), Montmorency (bright red) and Morello (dark mahogany red).

Dried cherries are prepared from tart cherries, which may have sugar or other sweeteners added prior to drying.

Ontario chilled and pitted cherries are the Montmorency variety (tart), which are the best cheries for pies, sauces, tarts, jams and desserts. They are availble with 10% sugar added or no sugar added.

Marashino cherries can be made from any variety of cherry, but Royal Ann (sweet) is typically used. The cherries are pitted and soaked in a flavoured sugar syrup. These sugary cherries are used as garnish for desserts and cocktails, in baked goods and fruit salads.

Canned Cherries are red, tart, pitted cherries packed in water.

Buying

Fresh cherries are available from May (sweet) or June (sour) through August. Select fresh cherries that are brightly coloured, shiny and plump. Sweet cherries should be firm, but not hard; sour cherries should be medium-firm. You get more for your money (per gram weight) buying stemmed cherries, but those with the stems still on last longer.

Canned Cherries - choose undented cans that exhibit no bulging.

Storing

Unwashed cherries should be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. To preserve cherries and use them later, select red, tree-ripened fruit. Remove the stems and rinse the fruit in cool water; remove pits, if desired. You can then freeze, can or dry the cherries.

Freezing cherries: Cherries can be frozen on a cookie sheet with the pit still in them. You can enjoy the cherries while they are still frozen, or package them in appropriate quantities for further use (e.g. 1/2 cup or 1 cup in a freezer baggie).

If the cherries will be used for pies or other recipes, pit them first over the container you will be storing them in, to catch the juices. (A 9-inch pie will require 4 to 5 cups of pitted tart cherries.) To preserve the red colour of tart cherries, they should be frozen shortly after they are picked/bought, in freezer containers with a sprinkling of granulated sugar. Frozen cherries will keep for 8 to 10 months.

Canning cherries: To can cherries, it is best to follow a recipe from a canning book such as Ball or Kerr - check out www.homecanning.com

Drying cherries: If you dry your own fresh tart cherries, don't expect the same results as commercially dried tart cherries. As with other fruits dehydrated at home, the results can be significantly different. Dehydrate for 24 to 36 hours, pits removed.

For more information on preserving cherries, visit www.homefoodpreservation.com

Canned cherries should be stored unopened in a cool, dry place off the floor. Opened cherries should be transferred to a covered container, refigerated and used within 2 to 4 days.

Chilled and pitted cherries can be frozen in their pails or packaged in small containers or freezer bags in desired proportions.

Preparing

Fresh sweet cherries need only be rinsed and enjoyed. Tart or sour cherries are typically used to make pies, jellies, jams, sauces, stewed fruit and the like.

Pitting cherries You may have heard that you can remove cherry pits with paper clips, a vegetable peeler or a knife. However, the best pitters are ones made especially for the job. Click here to see a hand-held "cherry stoner". Hand-held pitters work well on a small batch of cherries. However, if you need to pit large numbers of cherries, it is best to invest in a large cherry pitter, such as this one. Cherry pitters/stoners are available at specialty food stores or through the Internet.

Chilled and pitted cherries To use cherries frozen in the pail, remove the pail from the freezer and let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Scoop out the desired amount of cherries and return the pail to the freezer.

Eating

Cherries can be incorporated into any meal of the day.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy Cherries:

Breakfast

  • Blend fresh cherries into a smoothie - if you have to pit them, it will take a little extra time, but it only takes a few cherries to impart their distinct flavour to your frosty morning beverage. You can also buy frozen pitted cherries in grocery stores.
  • Add fresh, frozen or dried cherries to muffins, pancakes and quick breads.
  • Make a more healthful granola by mixing in unsweetened dried cherries and other dried fruits, seeds and chopped nuts.

Lunch

  • Try a cherry soup with a salad for a relaxing, cool weekend lunch (see recipe).
  • Add a fruit serving to your packed lunch with a 1 cup of fresh sweet cherries.
  • Toss some greens with leftover cold chicken breast, cubed, some dried cherries and a fruity vinaigrette for a tasty salad.
  • Enjoy a fruit salad - not the canned type with a single maraschino in it - but make your own with fresh fruits, pitted cherries, a splash of juice and a squeeze of lemon.

Dinner

  • Add dried cherries to polutry and meat stuffing.
  • Make an entrée salad with plenty of fresh greens, veggies and dried or fresh, pitted cherries.
  • Add dried cherries to couscous, pasta and quinoa salads for an interesting side dish.

Snacks

  • If you typically snack on fruit that is available year-round, such as apples, bananas and oranges, take the opportunity to celebrate ssummer. One cup of cherries and a handful of nuts make a delicious, healthful snack.
  • Toss dried cherries into trail mix.
  • Liven up plain low-fat yogurt with fresh cherries.

Did You Know?

  • Cherries were named after the Turkish town of Cerasus, and date as far back as 300 BCE.
  • In 1912, Tokyo's governor presented America with ornamental cherry trees, which stand in Washington, DC today and act as a floral tourist attraction.

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