One of my favorite parts of summer: fresh cherries! Find out all about their nutritional benefits, plus tips on buying, storing and cooking with them.
As a fan of shirley temple drinks as a kid, I always thought maraschino cherries were a type of fresh cherry. That’s unfortunately not the case.
Maraschino cherries are actually cherries that have been bleached, pitted, and then soaked in a syrup (often containing high fructose corn syrup) for several months. Pretty gross. Sorry childhood-me.
Real cherries, however, are still deliciously sweet and much healthier than those processed ones.
Originally from Asia, cherries are now grown all over the world, with peak season in the US being June-August.
1 cup of fresh cherries (about 21 individual cherries) provides 90 calories, 22 grams of carb, 3 grams of fiber, 17 grams of sugar, and 1.5 grams of protein.
Cherries are a good source of vitamin C and potassium, as well as contain smaller amounts of vitamin K, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, copper, and magnesium.
Most important, though, is the high amount of antioxidants in cherries.
Due to these antioxidants, cherries have been shown to help relieve joint pain and enhance muscle recovery after exercising.
Trouble sleeping? Cherries are rich in melatonin, with some studies showing improvements in sleep after consuming cherry juice.
There are two main types of cherries: sweet reds and rainier.
Sweet red cherries should be a deep red color with bright green stems. They should also be firm without any wrinkling near the stem.
Rainier cherries are reddish-yellow in color, with more red or pink coloring indiciating sweeter cherries. While these are naturally less firm than sweet red cherries, they still shouldn’t feel mushy or have bruising.
Cherries should be kept in the fridge in a plastic bag. As with berries, wait to wash cherries until just before eating to avoid any extra moisture causing them to spoil in the fridge.
Stored properly, they should keep for at least 3-5 days. However, if they were super fresh when you bought them, cherries can last up to 2 weeks in the fridge.
I like to buy a big bag of cherries and store half of them in the freezer. To do this, wash and then pit them. Place pitted cherries on a baking sheet in a single layer and freeze for 30 minutes, or until firm.
Once frozen, transfer them to a freezer-safe bag. Frozen cherries should last up to 1 year.
While delicious raw as a snack, cherries are a vibrant addition to salads, grain bowls, oatmeal, yogurt, and smoothies.
They can also be roasted or simmered down to make a sauce/topping for savory or sweet dishes. And of course, they can be added to a variety of desserts, especially fruit pies, crisps and cobblers.
If you cook or bake with cherries often, I recommend getting a cherry pitter. Super cheap on Amazon, but will save you lots of time (and sticky fingers).
One of my favorite fruits, you can see it featured in these THT recipes:
What are your favorite ways to enjoy cherries? Share your creations by tagging TheHealthyToast_RD on Instagram!
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