In Season: Cherries

by in In Season, June 23, 2009

Cherries Jubilee
With more than 900 (yes 900!) cherry varieties available around the world, there is no excuse not to dig into these sweet little morsels now that they’re coming into season.

The Basics
Did you know that cherries are a member of the rose family? Yep. So are plums, peaches, apricots and even almonds. They’re also called “stone fruits,” which is a classification for fruits whose flesh and skin grow around a hard pit.

And you read right — there are more than 900 varieties of cherries in the world. They all differ in color, flavor and sweetness. Bing cherries, which have a dark red color and sweet flavor, are the ones you’ll most often find at the supermarket. But not all cherries are red. Rainier cherries are yellow with a pink blush; some late-harvest varieties even have dark black skins. Morello cherries, another common variety, have bright red skins and a tartly sour taste that makes them fabulous for baking and preserving for cherry jam.

Both sweet and tart cherries also come dried, a great option for trail mix, cookies, oatmeal and cherry sauces. You can even drink your cherries; scour your juice aisle for 100% cherry juice. Sometimes the flavor is a bit overpowering so add a splash to a glass of still water or seltzer.

Better still, these little berries can be a true local favorite. About 95% of the cherries that we eat here in the U.S. come from Michigan, Wisconsin, Utah, Washington, Oregon, Pennsylvania and New York.

Nutrition Facts
One cup of fresh cherries has about 85 calories, 3 grams of fiber and just over 15% of your daily vitamin C needs. Sour cherries are slightly higher in vitamin C and also contain a healthy dose of vitamin A. Cherries are also high in two inflammation-fighting antioxidants: anthocyanin and quercitin.

What to Do with Cherries
Cherries don’t need fancy treatment to be delicious. I love to just snack on them plain throughout the season. For a cool summer treat, I make cherry-vanilla milkshakes with fresh cherries, skim milk and low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt.

Try fresh or dried cherries in simple desserts — like the classic Cherries Jubilee — but they also add sweetness and depth to savory sauces for chicken or pork.

And, of course, when a recipe includes fresh cherries, don’t forget to ditch the pits. When you need to prep bunch of cherries, a cherry pitter might be a helpful tool (they work well for olives, too).

Shopping Tip: Choose cherries that are brightly colored and firm (pass on the shriveled ones). Store them in the refrigerator, and wash them just before using. They should keep for about a week, but be sure to eat them fast and pitch them once they start to shrivel, get mushy or develop brown spots (all signs of spoilage).

TELL US: What’s your favorite way to enjoy cherries?

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Comments (25)

  1. Sheri says:

    What are sour cherries? I've only seen fresh sweet cherries in the grocery store.

  2. kim says:

    yes we live in the burbs of detroit…going up north in two weeks…love getting cherry's up there…they sell them on the sides of the roads…in little northern towns…way cheaper then the store…so fresh and yummy…the best part of living in Michigan…we love living in the burbs…but 3-4 times a year we take a 4 hour ride to northern MI…It's like our Hamptons…beautiful sandy beaches on nice blue water…but we don't need to dress up…flip flops, pony tail, shorts and a tee shirt…peace…great cherry's among other great food…fish…smoked turkey, etc…yum can't wait :)

  3. MCS says:

    what's wakkkk? I just brought home about 4 qts of bing cherries from my local Anderson's
    store. They are a mid-west chain and have great produce … so I'm checking as to what
    to do next? Have to pit them, then make a sauce and freeze I guess? Any more ideas?
    Thx guys.

  4. Jan says:

    I make a deal with myself: Self, you can buy this bag of beautiful, fresh cherries IF you bypass the cookie aisle.

  5. Meg says:

    Added a dozen of fresh chopped cherries and green onions to a pound of very lean turkey and made burgers out of it. very tasty.

  6. Lisa says:

    Cherries are great for placque free teeth. When I go in for teeth cleaning, they always say how clean they are and I must be flossing them. I probably eat more cherries than any of you. Price is irrelevant; if they are in the store we buy them. I eat 1/2 to 1 lb. a day. My husband is a jewel; he starts looking for them in May and will go to several stores to find them. Does the same in Dec. when the cherries come in from Chili. I use to pick them and sell them when I was a kid in California. Got all sorts of things with cherries on it; from dishes to sleepwear, sheets, car mats, jewelry and many other things.

  7. That's the beauty of having your own cherry tree! My grandmother had a sour cherry tree in her backyard. It produced the best berries — I remember asking when they sold the house if we could dig up the tree and take it with us. So good!

  8. Deb says:

    Last week they were only .99lb in Indianapolis. They are so good! I wish they were always available and always only .99/lb.

  9. Eli Horne says:

    That's some Abe Lincoln action right there.

  10. Missy says:

    Where was this? I am looking to plant a cherry tree in my backyard but not sure if I am in a good area to do so.


  11. Emma Jenkins says:

    I'm from KC, MO and I haven't seen a sour cherry tree since I left there. Where do these trees grow? I now live in SC and they do not grow well here, or say they say.

  12. "Sour cherries" are another name for Morello cherries. I don't often see them in grocery stores, but farmers' markets or fruit stands might have them.

  13. Sheri says:

    Oh, thanks. I do buy Morello cherries in a jar from Trader Joe's. I wonder if they could be used to make the Cherry Cordial. I'll look at our local farmers' markets for the fresh sour cherries. Thanks for the info.

  14. Missy, my grandmother had a tree in her backyard in southeastern Pennsylvania. It seemed to thrive for them with little maintenance. She lived in a small town with a small backyard so it was mostly protected from deer, whereas my parents fruit trees in the countryside get eaten up.

  15. Jan in Az says:

    Kim, Perhaps you should have said "ice cold blue water." We moved out of Michigan first chance we got 30 years ago from the Detroit 'burbs! I do miss the cherries. had a large tree that gave heavy fruit yields each year. Miss the cherries and pears! Jan in AZ

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