Nothing says summer like bright, red cherries. Cherries are often used in staple summer desserts, but that isn’t the only way to use them! You can use cherries to sweeten up any smoothie or salad, and they can also be used in savory dishes. A homemade cherry sauce pairs nicely with grilled chicken breast or pork chops. Let’s learn more about the different types of cherries, how to use them, and what health benefits they have!
What nutrients do cherries provide?
Not only are cherries delicious and versatile, but they have health benefits too. Cherries are a good source of potassium, which helps our muscles contract and helps control blood pressure. They are also rich in a compound called polyphenols. Polyphenols work to reduce damage to the cells in our body and reduce inflammation. They can also protect against certain chronic diseases, like heart disease and diabetes. Cherries have small amounts of other essential minerals as well, like copper and magnesium.
Cherries and… melatonin?
Cherries also have melatonin, which is unique because not many plant foods are good sources of it. Melatonin is a chemical that our brain releases in the darkness to help regulate our sleep cycle. You may have seen melatonin supplements before that help you fall asleep at night!
Each cherry variety has a different peak season throughout the summer. The popular Bing cherry has the longest season, spanning from early June to mid-August, making them easily accessible throughout the summer! Other varieties, like Chelan and Tieton, are best only in June, so grab them before it’s too late! The graphic below shows the cherry seasons in the Northwest.
Sweet or Sour?
Cherries range in how tart or sweet they taste, making some varieties better for baking and some better for eating fresh. The popular Bing cherry we mentioned before is great for all uses because it is sweet with just a hint of tartness. There is wiggle room to add some sweetness for a dessert, but they are still sweet enough to snack on! The Morello cherry is a tart variety, so you may not want to eat them raw, but they are perfect for baked goods. Lastly, the popular Maraschino cherry. Maraschino cherries are not their own variety. Maraschino is a method of preservation that gives these cherries their bright red color! Because of the sweetness of these cherries, they work best as a topping for your ice cream, cocktails, or milkshakes.
Where should I get cherries?
To buy the cherries for your summer recipes, try picking your own. Many small producers will allow the public to come and pick cherries from their trees, and it’s usually cheaper than the store or farmer’s market. Search for a u-pick cherry orchard in your area and call your friends or family for a fun summer activity. You can start by searching the Pick Your Own website for farms in your area. Did you know that Washington State is the largest producer of sweet cherries in the entire nation? It’s a great place to go cherry picking!
Have a cherry-rific summer!
Emma Suzuki, Dietetic Intern
Gropper SS, Smith JL, Carr TP. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. Cengage Learning; 2018.
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A place for our consultant Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) to share nutrition science, yummy and healthy recipes, tips on seasonal ingredients, and other nutritional musings. Enjoy!