There is nothing more spectacular than walking through a cherry orchard in July. Beautiful clumps of shiny red fruit hanging from the branches. Cherries are in season from June through August. In BC we produce over 20 million dollars’ worth of cherries every year. Cherries, like other red fruit, contain the antioxidant anthocyanin which gives the red colour. Cherries also contain antioxidants such as phenols, quercetin and melatonin. Melatonin is known to help with sleep cycles. 1 cup of cherries contains 90 calories, 16% of your daily vitamin C needs and 3 grams of fibre. One of the types of fibre is pectin which is a soluble fibre known to help lower cholesterol levels and is also what makes cherries good for making jam and pie. They are also a source of vitamin A, boron which is important for bone health and potassium which helps lower blood pressure. Studies have also found that eating cherries (45 sweet cherries) may help reduce pain from gout. Sweet cherries contain 10 calories more per ½ cup serving than sour cherries. ¼ cup of dried cherries provides 136 calories, 27g sugar and0.2g of fibre.
There are two main types of cherries: sweet and sour or tart. These, of course, can be further broken down into many varieties. Sweet cherries include Bing, Rainier, Skeena, Sweetheart, Van, Chelan, Chinook, Lambert, Lapins, Staccato, Santina, Vista, Vivva and Christalina cherries, while Evans, Montmorency, and Galaxy cherries are tart.
Cherries should be firm and plump with shiny skin, free of wrinkles or blemishes. Cherries with the stem will last longer than those without. At some supermarkets, you can also get chilled or pitted cherries, which can be time-saving for cooking or baking. Dried cherries are another way to consume cherries in the off-season.
Cherries should be stored unwashed in the fridge in a plastic bag but they don’t need to be in a crisper. Wash them before eating, and, if you intend to freeze them, stem and pit them. Freezing works best if the cherries are laid on a baking pan in one layer in the freezer so they freeze individually, after which you can pop them in a plastic bag and freeze them, where they will last for up to 10 months! Pits can be cut out with a small knife or you can use cherry-pitters. Another method of preserving cherries is canning. Canned cherries can last for up to a year unopened, once opened they should be kept in the fridge, where they’ll only last for a couple of days. Dried cherries can be kept in a cool cupboard, fridge or freezer.
Fresh cherries are delicious as they are or added to a fruit salad. For lunch add them to a green salad with walnuts and goat cheese or for dinner cook them in a saucepan and pour them over pork tenderloin or rack of lamb. Dried cherries can be added to pancake mix, trail mix, stuffing, or granola. If you’re trying to use up frozen cherries from last year, adding them to yogurt or smoothies helps achieve an ice creamy texture while boosting flavour.