Cherries are drupes, or stone fruits, related to plums and more distantly to peaches and nectarines.

Cherries have been enjoyed since the Stone Age — pits were found in several Stone Age caves in Europe. The Romans carried cherries throughout Europe and England along the routes of conquest.

Cherries are grown in several regions of this country, but seventy percent of the cherries produced in the United States come from four states (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Utah).

Cherry – A Favorite Flavor!

Most of the cherries in the U.S. come from Michigan’s approximately 35,000 acres of tart cherry trees. Michigan grows almost 75 percent of the tart cherries produced in the U.S. In fact, Traverse City, Michigan is called the Cherry Capital of the World. Sweet cherries are grown in large numbers in Washington.

Choose firm, red cherries with stems, which prolong their shelf life. Avoid cherries that are soft or have brown spots.

Try to keep your cherries out of the sun. As temperatures rise, cherries become limp, and the stems will turn brown and shrivel. Remember, you can freeze cherries in airtight containers for up to one year.

Cherries do not ripen after harvest. They are very perishable, so refrigerate them immediately after purchase. Cherries can be kept fresh in the refrigerator for up to two days.

A Super Fruit: Cherry

Cherries are today’s hottest “superfruit.” A growing body of science reveals tart cherries, enjoyed as dried and frozen cherries and cherry juice, have among the highest levels of disease-fighting antioxidants compared to other fruits. They also contain other important nutrients such as beta carotene (19 times as much as blueberries or strawberries!) vitamins C and E, potassium, magnesium, iron, fiber and folate.

Results of a study by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and their university colleagues suggest that some natural compounds in Bing cherries may reduce painful arthritic inflammation.

Cherry Nutrition

Cherries also are a rich source of melatonin, a powerful antioxidant known for regulating the body’s natural sleep cycle and helping to promote restful sleep. Good news for people seeking a sensible, safe way to help sleep problems!

In a pilot study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, scientists from the University of Pennsylvania, University of Rochester and the V.A. Center of Canandaigua tested the effects of tart cherry juice on the sleep habits of 15 older adults. The research subjects drank 8 ounces of the beverage every morning and night for two weeks. After a two week “wash out” period of no juice, the study participants were switched to another juice drink containing no cherry juice.

The results? During the weeks the study participants drank the cherry juice, there were significant reductions in reported insomnia severity when compared to the weeks when they were consuming the non-cherry juice drink. What’s more, drinking the tart cherry juice appeared to help people sleep through the night better, without waking up.

What’s even more, emerging evidence links cherries to many important health benefits — from helping to ease the pain of arthritis and gout to reducing risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers, and possibly even the prevention of memory loss.

Cherries are among the list of fruits containing the highest levels of disease-fighting antioxidants. Cherries contain important nutrients such as beta carotene (19 times as much as blueberries or strawberries!) vitamins C and E, potassium, magnesium, iron, fiber and folate.

Cherry Facts

  • Cherries are one of the most popular fruit and are grown in 20 countries worldwide. The United States grows approximately 150,000 tons of cherries annually.
  • The best known varieties of cherries are the Montmorency and the Bing. Bing cherries should be a dark, purplish color and somewhat firm.
  • Cherries are available from May to August.
  • Europeans enjoy a chilled cherry soup as a summertime treat.
  • Cherry trees belong to the family Rosaceae. The sweet, or dessert, cherry is classified as Prunus avium.
  • Cherries are grown in many parts of the United States. Sweet cherries, more difficult to grow, are cultivated mainly in California, and sour cherries are common in the East.
  • Some species of cherries with inferior fruit are cultivated especially for their flowers. Most notable of these are the Oriental cherry and the Nanking cherry. Thousands of trees of these species, presented by Japan to the United States in 1912, have been planted in Washington, D.C., around the Potomac Basin, where the cherry blossoms attract considerable attention each year in April.
  • Cherries do not ripen after harvest. They are very perishable, so refrigerate them immediately after purchase. Cherries can be kept fresh in the refrigerator for up to two days
  • While there is no clear guideline on how many cherries it takes to reap the health benefits, experts suggest that 1 to 2 servings of cherries daily can help provide some of the health benefits identified in the research.
  • The twigs and foliage of cherry trees are poisonous, and, if eaten, cause death.

One serving of cherries equals:

  • 1/2 cup dried cherries.
  • 1 cup frozen.
  • 1 cup juice.
  • 1 ounce (or 2 tablespoons) juice concentrate.
Cherry Health benefits

Cherries: A Sleep Aid?

Cherries also are a rich source of melatonin, a powerful antioxidant known for regulating the body’s natural sleep cycle and helping to promote restful sleep. The cherry fruits are low in cholesterol, fat and sodium. They are also a very good source of fiber and Vitamin C.

Cherries Aid Detox

Cherries contain natural aspirin that helps detoxify inflammation-related substances in the body’s tissues and joints. Cherries also contain pectin, which helps to clean up heavy metals, synthetic chemicals disguised as food additives, cholesterol, and buildup in the intestines.

Selecting Cherries

Buy cherries that have been kept cool and moist, as flavor and texture both suffer at warm temperatures. Cherries have a limited growing season and any fresh cherries grown in the United States sold after August probably came from cold storage. Small quantities of sweet cherries are imported from New Zealand during the winter months, but these may be difficult to find.

At the market, pick a handful of cherries at a time and only select the best fruit. This may be time consuming, but the reward will be better cherries. Good cherries should be large (one inch or more in diameter), glossy, plump, hard and dark colored for their variety. Buy cherries with stems on — they should be fresh and green. Reject undersized cherries or those that are soft or flabby. Avoid fruit that is bruised or has cuts on the dark surface.

If you find many damaged fruits at the market, consider buying cherries somewhere else, as a number of spoiled cherries will start the others to decay.

Varieties of Cherries

There are two main types of cherries: sweet and sour. Sour cherries are lower in calories and higher in vitamin C and beta carotene than sweet cherries.

Sour Cherries

Montmorency Cherry Trees
This variety is the best known sour cherry in America. It is mostly canned or frozen for use as pie filling or sauce. They are grown mostly in the eastern and Midwestern states. Montmorency cherries have proven over the years to be outstanding for pie baking. The cherries are large sized, dark red in color and have a good cherry flavor and quality.

Sweet Cherries

Bing
This variety is the best known sweet cherry. It is large, round, extra-sweet and has a purple-red flesh and a deep red skin that is close to black when fully ripe. The Bing is available from the end of May until early August.

Lambert
This variety is the second most popular sweet cherry. It is smaller than the Bing and is more heart shaped. It has a dark-red skin and a rich flavor. Lamberts are available a bit longer than the Bing, usually until the end of August.

Rainier
This variety is sweet with a yellow or pinkish skin. It is milder and sweeter than the Bing. However, this variety is grown in limited quantities.

Royal Ann Sweet Cherry
This variety has a blush-yellow skin and is often canned or made into maraschino cherries. It is a sweet cherry and another one we have all learned to love in cherry pie.

Preparing Cherries

Most cherries bought at the market are eaten raw, alone or accompanied by other fruits. Simply wash the fruit and serve with the stems.

For cooking, pit cherries either by hand or with a cherry pitter. Poaching is the most common form of preparation. Drop cherries into a small amount of simmering water, or a combination of water and wine, and cook for one to three minutes until soft. Poach using the formula of one cup liquid to two cups cherries.

Storing Cherries

Loosely pack unwashed cherries in plastic bags or pour them into a shallow pan in a single layer and cover with plastic wrap to minimize bruising. Store cherries in the refrigerator and cherries in good condition should last up to a week. Check the fruit occasionally and remove the cherries that have gone bad. Wash the fruit before eating.

Freezing Cherries

You can freeze cherries by rinsing and draining thoroughly, spreading them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet and placing in the freezer overnight. Once the cherries are frozen, transfer them to a heavy plastic bag. The frozen fruit may be kept up to a year.

Using Cherries

  • Cherries are one of the most popular fruit and are grown in 20 countries worldwide. Chef’s say the best varieties for all cooking and baking needs, are the Montmorency and the Bing. Bings should be a dark purplish color and somewhat firm.
  • Use pitted sweet cherries in yogurt, desserts, or even as a sweet topping for grilled meat.
  • Rinse cherries carefully in cool water before eating.
  • Eat cherries plain or in salads, or use them cooked in pies, tarts, cakes, jellies, jams, preserves, sauces, pickles and candies.
  • Use cherries as a garnish, in toppings, and in sauces for pork, poultry, fish and beef. Always add them last in the cooking process.
  • A bowl of cherries can languish in summer heat and sun. To keep cherries crisp and cool, mix them with ice cubes or crushed ice. Replenish the supply as it melts.

Cooking Tip: To pit several cherries at once, place them in a zip-top bag and roll over them gently with a rolling pin so they split. Remove from the bag, pluck out pits, and enjoy this fruit so rich in antioxidants.

Cherry fruit extract contains antioxidant flavanoids and are used in many tablets and capsules. These capsules are used to support the pH levels of the body.

Cherry Tea

Cherry tea is ablaze with the new season cherry blossoms and the air is filled with sweet aroma. This tea is a flavorful blend of sweet cherries with all natural herbs and flavors. No artificial colors or flavors and available in caffeine-free.

Cherry Juice for Insomnia?

Tart cherry juice just might help you sleep better. In a small study, insomniacs who drank 8 ounces of cherry juice twice a day slept an impressive 84 more minutes per night than they did when given a placebo juice. Previous research has pointed to the cherries naturally occurring hormone melatonin as the key soporific ingredient. Look for juice made from Montmorency tart cherries, which have the highest concentration of melatonin. Source: Experimental Biology 2014 annual meeting.

Cherry Prose: Cherry Ripe

Cherry-ripe, ripe, ripe, I cry, Full and fair ones; come and buy.
If so be you ask me where they do grow, I answer: There,
Where my Julia’s lips do smile; There’s the land, or cherry-isle,
Whose plantations fully show All the year where cherries grow.

Robert Herrick (1648)

In Summary

Cherries

  • High levels of disease-fighting antioxidants.
  • Cherries contain beta carotene.
  • Provide vitamins C and E, potassium, magnesium, iron, fiber and folate.
  • Cherries also are a rich source of melatonin, a powerful antioxidant known for regulating the body’s natural sleep cycle.

Chocolate Cherries Jubilee

  • 1/2 cup cherries, pitted
  • 1/2 cup whipped topping
  • 1/4 cup almonds, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons almond liqueur
  • 1 cup fat free chocolate pudding, instant

Preheat oven to 325-degrees. Prepare instant pudding. Toast almonds on baking sheet for 3 to 5 minutes

Fill dessert goblets with 1/4 cup of whipped cream; add 1/4 cup cherries. Add 1 tablespoon almond liqueur and 1/2 cup chocolate pudding to each goblet. Top with toasted almonds and serve.

Cherry Mousse

  • 1 tablespoon cherry gelatin powder
  • 1 can (14-1/2-ounce) tart cherries, drained
  • 1 carton (8 ounce) frozen light or fat free whipped topping, thawed

In a bowl, combine gelatin powder and cherries; fold in the whipped topping. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Read More: Food Facts