Compact, juicy, and colourful, cherries are nicely supplied with nutrients,
notably pectin (a soluble fibre that helps control blood cholesterol
levels), vitamin C, and beta-carotene, with some potassium. (Sour cherries,
have considerably more vitamin C than sweet cherries do, though much
of it is lost when the cherries are cooked.)
are also high in a number of phytochemicals, including: anthocyanins
(pigments responsible for the red and blue colours of fruits and vegetables),
which may have anticancer properties based on their antioxidant activities
that defend cells against harmful carcinogens); and quercetin, a so-called
flavonoid, which is an antioxidant and may have both anticancer potential
as well as anti-inflammatory and antihistaminic properties. It is this
anti-inflammatory activity that has made cherries (specifically cherry
juice) of interest to people who suffer from gout.
even a possible dental health bonus in that studies have shown that
a substance (not yet identified) in cherry juice may help prevent tooth
Buy cherries that have been kept cool and moist, as flavour and texture
both suffer at warm temperatures. Take just a few cherries at a time
in your hand and select only the best. If circumstances allow, taste
one. Good cherries should be glossy, plump, hard, and dark coloured
for their variety. Reject undersized fruits or those that are soft or
carefully for bruises or cuts on the dark surface, and avoid cherries
that are sticky through juice leakage. If you find many damaged fruits,
consider shopping elsewhere, as a number of spoiled cherries in a tray
will start the others on the road to decay.
stems should be fresh and green; avoid cherries without stems, as the
resulting skin break presents an opportunity for decay to begin. Darkened
stems are a sign of either old age or poor storage conditions.
Loosely pack (to minimise bruising) unwashed cherries in plastic bags,
or pour them into a shallow pan in a single layer and cover with plastic
wrap. Store them in the refrigerator. Fresh cherries in good condition
should keep for up to a week, but check them occasionally and remove
any that have begun to go bad.
can extend the cherry season by freezing them. Rinse and drain the cherries
thoroughly, then spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet
and freeze. Once frozen, transfer the cherries to a heavy plastic bag.
They'll keep for up to one year. When freezing fruits, vegetables or
any other food, it's a good idea to label and date the bag, that way
you'll know what you have on hand and how long you've had it.
When serving fresh cherries, simply rinse them under cold water and
drain; they're most attractive with the stems intact. To pit cherries
for cooking, halve them with a paring knife and pry out the pit with
the tip of the knife, or use an inexpensive cherry pitter (found in
any kitchenware shop), which works like a hole punch. A partially unbent
paper clip (or an old-fashioned V-shaped hairpin, if you can find one)
will also do the job.
cooked for just a few minutes, sweet cherries retain their firm texture,
and their flavour develops a depth and richness. Try poaching them,
this gentle cooking method preserves their texture. Stem and pit the
cherries, then drop them into a small amount of simmering water or a
combination of water and wine and cook until the fruit is slightly softened
and heated through, about 1 to 3 minutes. If you like, you can season
the simmering water with a cinnamon stick, a little ground allspice,
or even a hint of pepper.
can also be sautéed in a small amount of butter and sugar and
served in crepes, atop pancakes or waffles or over frozen yogurt and
Both sweet and sour cherries make excellent
jam and preserves, but will require pectin to thicken. Follow your favorite