- Phytonutrients: Plant pigments that give cherries and other fruits and vegetables their brilliant colors.
- Antioxidants: One of the nutrients in cherries, vitamin C, can act as an antioxidant to help keep cells healthy by protecting them from oxidation (oxygen damage).
Favorite Summer Cherries
Bing — With a deep red-purple to almost black color, Bing cherries are firm and juicy. Their sweet, intense flavor makes them extremely popular. Look for them in May through August.
Lambert — Lambert cherries are dark red and slightly smaller than Bing cherries. They have a noticeable heart shape and rich, sweet flavor. This summer fruit is available in May and June.
Rainier — Rainier cherries are easy to spot...they have shiny yellow and pink-blushed skin. The fruit of this cherry is white and the juice is colorless but their flavor is delicate yet sweet. Peak season for Rainier cherries is May through the first part of July.
Select cherries that are plump, shiny and firm with green stems. Avoid those with soft or bruised spots, cracks or cuts; they just don't keep well. And here's a little known fact...cherries without stems deteriorate faster because of the broken skin.
Cherries are completely ripe when shipped, so they are very perishable. Refrigerate the unwashed fruit immediately. They’ll keep for up to a week. Rinse just before using.
Wash cherries thoroughly. Many people’s favorite way to enjoy the fresh fruit is “au naturel”—straight off the tree or right out of the bowl. Adding them to salads, desserts, ice cream, yogurt and cereal is a terrific way to use this summer fruit.
Avoid the Pits: For all their glorious virtues, cherries have one pitfall...the pits! Like all "stone" fruits (think peaches, apricots, plums), scientists haven't been able to grow seedless varieties. If you’re not eating them off the stem, you’ll need to pit them to use in your recipes, carefully...the juice from dark red cherries stains.
- Use a sharp paring knife to cut open the cherry and remove the pit.
- A much easier way is to use a cherry pitter, which removes the pit in seconds.
And if you're wondering just how many cherries you'll have to pit for that recipe, think one pound of cherries yields about 2-1/2 cups of pitted cherries.
If you want to save that fresh summer flavor, cherries are easy to freeze:
- Remove stems, wash and pat dry.
- Pit the cherries, if desired.
- Place on a cookie sheet and freeze until firm.
- Once frozen, cherries can be transferred to freezer containers or plastic freezer bags.
Cherries taste great in a sauce or topping. Cook only about 3 minutes or until cherries are softened (heating for just a short time helps the fruit retain its normal texture and vibrant color) before adding to your favorite sauce, or see the recipes above.