Cherries. As part of fruits and veggies month, Thrive! is featuring a few favorite fruits and veggies. A whopping 90 percent of adults and children don’t get enough fruits and veggies. So, add this one to your shopping list this week!
HISTORY OF CHERRIES
Cherries were once prized fruits, tasty enough to make it to the finest meals. They were featured at Roman conquerors’ meals and fancied by the Chineses noblemen. They were soon enjoyed by the common man when they were brought over to America in the 1600s. However, it wasn’t until the French colonists brought cherry pits over to America did cherries really begin to grow.
Production of this fruit that we see today began in the mid-1800s. Peter Dougherty planted cherry trees on the Old Mission Peninsula in Michigan, and soon enough many others began to plant trees when they saw how well Dougherty’s trees flourished. The first commercial cherry orchards were planted in Michigan in 1893.
- Today the U.S. cherry industry produces more than 650 million pounds of this fruit each year
- Michigan grows 75 percent of tart cherry crops, and Oregon and Washington grow about 60 percent of sweet cherry crops
- There is a National Cherry Festival in July in Traverse City, Michigan where thousands of people come from all over the world to celebrate their love of these red flavor bombs.
- The native habitat of the cherries are believed to come from western Asia and eastern Europe
In California, the season begins at the end of April and ends early June. However, this is when the season begins in Washington. The season ends around late August for cherries in Washington. Cherries are extremely perishable, so you won’t see them in stores unless they are in season. This is why you won’t be able to find many of them come September until the next year.
Most people are familiar with the common red cherries. However, sweet cherries can vary in color from yellow to red or even nearly black. The more acidic they are, the more tart the flavor will be. Sour cherry trees are smaller, about 16 feet to the 36 feet of a sweet cherry tree. Sour cherries will typically be a dark red and are usually too tart to eat fresh.
WHAT YOU SHOULD LOOK FOR
The best way to know if the cherries are ripe and fresh is to taste one, but if the vendor you are buying from does not allow this, there are some other things to look for. If the cherry has a stem, a bright green color means it is fresh, however just because a cherry doesn’t have a stem does not indicate that the cherries are not fresh. Red cherries should be firm, and wrinkles near the stem mean that they probably won’t be quite as fresh, but you can still expect them to be sweet.
Cherries are full of antioxidants and because of this cherries have been shown to reduce levels of nitric oxide; thus, reducing your risk of getting gout and reduces inflammation. There have also been studies that show cherries help increase insulin production and lowers blood sugar in people with diabetes. Furthermore, studies show that cherries help to improve your cardiovascular health and reduce your risk of stroke. Additionally, cherries have an abundance of anthocyanin, which can help improve your memory. Finally, tart cherries have been shown to improve total sleep time and quality when people drink cherry juice before bed.
You must keep the cherries in cold storage to keep them fresh. You shouldn’t wash the cherries before you store them (this can lead to spoilage), but right before eating them. If you wish to store the cherries for a longer time, they can be frozen to maintain freshness.
HOW TO ENJOY
Whether you decide to buy sweet or tart cherries, both will have a pit. When eating a cherry make sure to have something next to you to collect the stems and pits that you don’t eat. There are a lot of wonderful desserts that you can make with cherries, including the classic cherry pie. You can also enjoy them fresh from the market for a sweet, (or tart) refreshing snack. Below are some recipes for desserts with cherries.