The sweet but short season for these ruby (and sometimes golden, burgundy/black or mottled) beauties, “the caviar of fruits,” has arrived. Pick ‘em while they’re good and plenty. Here’s a primer to help you get the most and best out of the summer of cherries.
In the beginning
Sweet and sour versions of this stone fruit have been around since the days of Fred Flintstone. The ancient Greeks started cultivating the sweet cherry that has blossomed into more than 1,000 varieties today. The Roman’s prized both its timber and titillating fruit, which they named after the town, Cerasus, the point of cherry export to Europe. Food folklorists claim the stony seed was probably first transported by birds to the continent, then English colonists brought sweet cherries to America around 1629. Spanish missionaries introduced them to California where it became an established cherry cultivating region in the 1800s.
Cherry a day keeps doc away
A close cousin to the almond, peach, apricot and plum, cherries are as divine and delicious as they are healthful. Feeling creaky, achy, tuckered out? Eat a few cherries, loaded with anthocyanins that give the fruit its intense hue and are known for alleviating the pain and swelling from arthritic joints and the gout by blocking inflammatory enzymes. The rich store of boron also boosts bone health. A little logy? Raw cherries are a great source of fiber, like nature’s roto-rooter. Having trouble catching your zzz’s? They’re packed with the hormone melatonin that regulates circadian sleep patterns and alleviates jet lag. Low on potassium? One cup of these red beauties will amp up these levels to put the skids on hypertension and boost heart and kidney function. “Bad” cholesterol levels too high? Phytoserols in this fruit will help shrink LDL. Bugged by back pain? Tart cherries have been found to lower urate levels in the body to alleviate muscle and other aches. Cherries also contain a flavonoid called quercetin that has been found to reduce the risk factors for heart disease, especially “belly” fat.
Cherry on Top
The sweet Bing, Tulare, Rainier and the Royal Ann (which morphs into the maraschino) are sweet. The tart ones include the Nanking and Evans. Bright red, sour cherries have the highest levels of antioxidants and vitamins. One tree produces about 7,000 cherries, enough to whip up a mixed fruit compote, an airy soufflé, a cherry pie, scones, biscotti, muffins, cobblers or top off a cheesecake with these glazed beauts. Make a gelato sundae with a flambéed, brandied cherry sauce. Toss them in your smoothies or drink the juice straight up. Whet your adult whistle with a cherry sling, daiquiri or amaretto cherry sour. or savory dishes, try grilled salmon with cherry drizzle, an apricot cherry chicken bake, and Mediterranean tabouli or couscous with dried cherries. Or just munch on them cold, right out of the fridge.
Here’s a multitasking, chilled summer soup–that might even help you sleep better and wake up with more limber joints. Standing advice with cherries – watch out for those pits!
1 pound ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 pound Bing cherries, pitted
2 celery stalks, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Persian cucumbers, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons white balsamic or sherry vinegar
Sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste
Combine ingredients in a glass bowl, cover and chill overnight. Blend in a food processor to desired texture. Ladle in bowls, garnish with fresh, whole cherries and cilantro sprigs.
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