Cherry: Fruit of the Month

Cherries are related to plums and more distantly to peaches and nectarines. They have been enjoyed since the Stone Age -- pits were found in several Stone Age caves in Europe. The Romans carried cherries throughout Europe and England along the routes of conquest.

Cherries are grown in several regions of this country, but seventy percent of the cherries produced in the United States come from four states (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Utah).

Varieties

There are two main types of cherries: sweet and sour. Sour cherries are lower in calories and higher in vitamin C and beta-carotene than sweet cherries.

Sour Cherries

  • Montmorency: This variety is the best known sour cherry. It is mostly canned or frozen for use as pie filling or sauce. They are grown mostly in the eastern and Midwestern states.

Sweet Cherries

  • Bing: This variety is the best known sweet cherry. It is large, round, extra-sweet and has a purple-red flesh and a deep red skin that is close to black when fully ripe. The Bing is available from the end of May until early August.
  • Lambert: This variety is the second most popular sweet cherry. It is smaller than the Bing and is more heart shaped. It has a dark-red skin and a rich flavor. Lamberts are available a bit longer than the Bing, usually until the end of August.
  • Rainer: This variety is sweet with a yellow or pinkish skin. It is milder and sweeter than the Bing. However, this variety is grown in limited quantities.
  • Royal Ann: This variety has a blush-yellow skin and is often canned or made into maraschino cherries.

Cherries
Serving Size (73g)
Amounts Per Serving % Daily Value
Calories 50
Calories from Fat 0
Total Fat 1g 1%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 0mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 12g 4%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Sugars 10g
Protein 1g
Vitamin A 4%
Vitamin C 8%
Calcium 2%
Iron 2%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Choosing the Best Cherry

Buy cherries that have been kept cool and moist, as flavor and texture both suffer at warm temperatures. Cherries have a limited growing season and any fresh cherries grown in the United States sold after August probably came from cold storage. Small quantities of sweet cherries are imported from New Zealand during the winter months, but these may be difficult to find.

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At the market, pick a handful of cherries at a time and only select the best fruit. This may be time-consuming, but the reward will be better cherries. Good cherries should be large (one inch or more in diameter), glossy, plump, hard and dark-colored for their variety. Buy cherries with stems on - they should be fresh and green. Reject undersized cherries or those that are soft or flabby. Avoid fruit that is bruised or has cuts on the dark surface.

If you find many damaged fruits at the market, consider buying cherries somewhere else, as a number of spoiled cherries will start the others to decay.

Storing Cherries for Freshness

Loosely pack unwashed cherries in plastic bags or pour them into a shallow pan in a single layer and cover with plastic wrap to minimize bruising. Store cherries in the refrigerator and cherries in good condition should last up to a week. Check the fruit occasionally and remove the cherries that have gone bad. Wash the fruit before eating.

You can freeze cherries by rinsing and draining thoroughly, spreading them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet and placing in the freezer overnight. Once the cherries are frozen, transfer them to a heavy plastic bag. The frozen fruit may be kept up to a year.

Preparing Cherries to Eat

Most cherries bought at the market are eaten raw, alone or accompanied by other fruits. Simply wash the fruit and serve with the stems.

For cooking, pit cherries either by hand or with a pitter. Poaching is the most common form of preparation. Drop cherries into a small amount of simmering water, or a combination of water and wine, and cook for one to three minutes until soft. Poach using the formula of one cup liquid to two cups cherries.

Tips to Make Cherries Part of Your Day

  • Add cherries to a fruit salad to add color, flavor and variety.
  • Poached cherries make an excellent topping for low fat ice cream or low fat frozen yogurt.
  • Dried cherries add sweetness to oatmeal or trail mix.

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Recipes

Fresh Northwest Cherry Salsa

Makes 4 servings, each serving equals one 5 A Day serving.

Source: Produce for Better Health

Ingredients

2 cups pitted fresh or frozen sweet cherries

1/3 cup Basil, fresh, chopped

1/3 cup Green peppers, finely chopped

2 tsp Lemon juice

1/2 tsp Each of: Worcestershire sauce and grated lemon peel

1/4 tsp Salt

Dash of bottled hot pepper sauce

Chop cherries in food processor or manually. Combine all ingredients; mix well. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Nutritional Analysis: Calories 124, Total Fat 0g, Calories from Fat 2%, Protein 0g, Cholesterol 0mg, Fiber 5g, Sodium 168 mg.

Grilled Salmon Cherry Sauce

Makes 6 servings, each servings equals one 5 A Day serving.

Source: Northwest Cherry Growers

Ingredients

3 cups pitted Northwest fresh sweet cherries

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

2 Tbsp honey

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp freshly grated lemon peel

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

In large saucepan, combine all ingredients; bring to a boil over medium-high hear. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 30 minutes or until mixture thickens, stirring frequently. Great served over grilled salmon.

Nutritional Analysis: Calories 172, Total Fat 1g, Calories from Fat 5%, Carbohydrates 36g, Cholesterol 0mg, Fiber 4g, Sodium 370mg, Protein 2g.

Cherry and Smoked Turkey Salad

Makes 4 servings, each serving equals two 5 A Day servings.

Source: Northwest Cherry Growers

Ingredients

12 ounces smoked turkey, sliced

2 cups Northwest fresh sweet cherries, pitted

1 mango,* pared and sliced

1 kiwi fruit, sliced

1 cup Napa cabbage, shredded

Spicy Dressing

Arrange turkey, cherries, mango and kiwi fruit on shredded Napa cabbage. Drizzle Spicy Dressing over salad.

Spicy Dressing: Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and 1 clove crushed garlic until hot but not smoking; cool and remove garlic. Add 2 tablespoons balsamic or red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon each honey and hot dry mustard** and ½ tsp each ground ginger and salt; mix well. Makes about 1/3 cup.

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*One large nectarine may be substituted for mango.

**One tablespoon of your favorite mustard may be substituted.

Nutritional Analysis: Calories 292, Total Fat 7g, Calories from Fat 20%, Carbohydrates 42g, Protein 19g, Cholesterol 49mg, Fiber 4g, Sodium 668mg.

Cherry Pepper Salad

Makes 4 servings, each serving equals three 5 A Day servings.

Source: Northwest Cherry Growers

Ingredients

1 cup Northwest fresh sweet cherries, pitted

1 cup each thinly sliced sweet yellow and green peppers

1/4 cup thinly sliced mild chili pepper

2 Tbsp finely chopped onion

2 Tbsp white wine vinegar

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp sugar

salt and pepper to taste

1 Tbsp pickled ginger strips, optional

4 cups mixed greens

Toss together all ingredients except greens; refrigerate 1 hour or longer. Serve on mixed greens.

Nutritional Analysis: Calories 127, Total Fat 4g, Calories from Fat 27%, Carbohydrates 0g, Protein 3g, Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 541mg.

Southwestern Style Cherry Slaw

Makes 6 servings, each serving equals four 5 A Day servings. Source: Northwest Cherry Growers.

Ingredients

Slaw:

4 cups shredded green cabbage

3 cups sweet cherries, pitted and halved

2 cups torn fresh spinach leaves

1 cup shredded jicama

1 cup shredded carrot

1/2 cup snipped fresh cilantro

1/2 cup diced red onion

Dressing:

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp fresh lime juice

2 Tbsp frozen lime juice concentrate, thawed

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

1/2 tsp lime zest

1/4 tsp each chili powder, ground cumin and salt

In large serving bowl, combine ingredients for Slaw. In small saucepan, combine Dressing ingredients; heat to boil. Pour over salad and toss gently to coat.

Nutritional Analysis: Calories 158, Total Fat 6g, Calories from Fat 29%, Carbohydrates 27g, Protein 6g, Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 126mg.

WebMD Public Information from the CDC Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on May 27, 2005

Sources

SOURCE: National Center for chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services: "Fruit of the Month: Cherry!" www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/5aday/month/cherry.htm

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