Crazy about Cherries

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We’re in the midst of cherry season so make the most of how delicious and healthy these wonderful fruit is

By Susanna Ping

Cherries are beautiful and you can’t help but smile when you see a whole bunch of them in their shiny red hue calling out to you. They’re juicy, delicious, sweet yet tangy, and versatile. Pop them in your mouth fresh as they are, bake them in pies and cakes, whizz them in milkshakes and smoothies, sautee them with foie gras and duck, roast them with ham and pork loin, coulis them for ice cream and brulees.

Not all cherries are alike. There are hundreds of varieties and origins with their own colours, flavours and seasons. The top 10 cherry producing countries by rank are: Turkey, the US, Iran, Italy, Spain, Chile, Uzbekistan, Syrian Arab Republic, Ukraine and Russian Federation.

While Turkey remains top cherry producer China, South America, and South Africa are gaining ground. Australia produces a small volume but its high-quality cherries are very much in demand.

Popular cherry dishes

Blackforest cake – A classic German original with chocolate cake, kirsch-soaked cherries and cream

Cherry pie – Always a treat during cherry season from the US to Australia. Cherries always balance out sweetness with its acidic bite

Cherry clafoutis – This classic French treat is made with cherries suspended in a custard-like cake batter and baked

Duck breasts with cherry port sauce – Cherries are also good with savoury dishes. The tartness of cherries cuts though the richness of duck, and cherries are popular in sauces and reductions

Roast pork loin stuffed with cherries – Cherries are wonderful pairings with pork. Try stuffing the healthy white meat with cherries, sage and olive oil for a moist, flavour-packed roast dish

Types of cherries

Bing – Deep mahogany red throughout the fruit, very large, frim texture, sweet with 17-19 percent fruit sugar, season mid-June through early August

Chelan – Mahogany red throughout, large size, firm texture, sweet with 16-18 percent fruit sugar, season in June

Rainier – Golden skin with red blush, yellow interior; very large, fine texture, very sweet 17-23 percent fruit sugar, season late June through early August

Tieton – Bright mahogany, very large, quite firm texture, sweet 16-18 percent fruit sugar, season early June through July

Skeena – Mahogany, large, dense texture, very sweet 19-20 percent fruit sugar, season mid-July through early August

Sweetheart – Dark red, large heart shaped, quite firm, sweet 16-19 percent fruit sugar, season late July through mid-August

Lapins – Mahogany, large, quite firm, sweet 17-19 percent fruit sugar, season late July through mid-August

Health benefits

Eat cherries not only for their deliciousness but also their benefits. Cherries can:

1 Protect against Alzheimer’s – Cherries are packed with flavonoids and procyanidin which can protect neuronal cells

2 Reduce risk of cancer – Elements of vitamin C, carotenoids and anthocyanins team up to fight cancer

3 Decrease stroke and hypertension – Sweet cherries are rich in potassium which help against these conditions

4 Lower cardiovascular disease – Boost heart health by reducing inflammation, plaque and nitric oxide with cherries’ anthocyanins

5 Fight diabetes – Sweet cherries have a low glycemic index. Anthocyanins also reduce resistance and increase glucose tolerance

6 Promote better sleep – Sweet cherries are rich in melatonin, a natural element that regulates circadian rhythm and gives you restful sleep

7 Reduce belly fat – Researchers found that rats which were fed whole tart cherry powder, in a high fat diet, didn’t gain as much weight or build up as much body fat as rats that didn’t

8 Relieve osteoarthritis – Tart cherry juice consumed twice a day can reduce the pain and discomfort of swollen joints

9 Slow down the ageing of skin – Cherries have the highest antioxidant level of any fruit which help fights free radicals that make us look old. Cherry juice is also recommended as an alternative treatment for other skin conditions.

10 Reduce muscle pain – A favourite with marathon athletes, tart cherry juice consumed twice a day can aid muscle pain

Recipe

Cherry milkshake

Serves 2

1 cup cherries, pitted

1/2 cup vanilla ice cream

1/4 cup fresh milk

Blend cherries, milk and ice cream in a blender until smooth. Serve in chilled glasses