(Family Features) Whether fresh cherries are a favorite or a treat you’ve yet to try, the time to enjoy them is now.
Orchards in the Pacific Northwest, the nation’s largest growing region, experienced a long, cool spring, which often translates into more time and energy a tree can put into the fruit. When combined with the superior growing conditions characteristic to the area, this season’s fruit showcases what Northwest cherries are known for: their large size and sweet flavor profile.
Popular varieties grown in the Northwest include the mahogany-red Bings and super-sweet, yellow Rainiers. Rainier cherries, with their unique golden color and red blush, tend to ripen earlier in the year. Growers pick Rainier cherries over multiple weeks, selecting the ripest fruit each time.
Other varieties include the early-ripening Chelans and Tietons, followed by the often larger and darker Skeenas, Sweethearts and Lapins. Aside from the light-hued Rainier (which has juice that doesn’t stain) you can typically spot sweet cherries by their dark red skins – in general, the darker, the sweeter.
Great taste aside, sweet cherries are a healthful addition to summer picnics, parties and barbecues thanks to their fiber, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory power. They make for a snack that both grownups and little ones can enjoy straight out of the bowl thanks to their stem “handle” and can perk up appetizers, salads, desserts, sweet or savory sauces and more.
Outside of summer get-togethers, cherries make for a better-for-you late-night snack option as well. A cup of fresh, sweet cherries contains only 90 calories along with a low glycemic index of 22 making their cold, sweet crunch a tasty way to satisfy hunger cravings. Plus, they boast melatonin, which helps regulate circadian rhythm and promote healthy sleep patterns.
Fresh cherries should be kept in a sealed bag or container, and keep for approximately two weeks when refrigerated. To extend the cherry season and enjoy their health benefits after summer fades, buy an extra bag or two and preserve cherries by rinsing, packing and freezing them.
Basic freezing instructions
- Select 3-5 pounds of firm, ripe, Northwest-grown sweet cherries.
- After rinsing and draining, spread whole cherries with stems in a layer on a baking sheet.
- Place in freezer until firm then pack into freezer-proof containers or plastic freezer bags. Remove excess air and cover tightly.
- Add frozen cherries to smoothies or juices, or defrost and put in hot cereal, pies, turnovers, cobblers and more. Or enjoy as a frozen, sweet late-night treat.
To create a festive cherry dish for the summer season, try this Cherry Bruschetta as a snack or appetizer. Find more recipes and cherry tips at nwcherries.com.
- 18 slices (1/2-inch thick) small baguette-style bread
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
- 1 1/2 cups pitted Northwest fresh sweet cherries, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 1/4 cup diced yellow sweet pepper
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 teaspoon grated lime peel
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
- 1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil
- Heat oven to 350° F.
- Arrange baguette slices on cookie sheet and toast one side 5 minutes. Turn slices, brush with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and bake 5 minutes longer.
- Combine cherries, cilantro, sweet pepper, green onions, lime juice, lime peel, garlic salt, pepper and remaining olive oil; mix well.
- Top each baguette with thin slice of cheese, 1 tablespoon cherry mixture and sprinkle of sliced basil. Serve warm or cold.
Source: Northwest Cherry Growers
(Family Features) It’s no secret: Americans are desperate for sleep. In fact, the U.S. sleep aid market is expected to grow to $44 billion by 2020, according to data from Persistence Market Research. However, achieving better sleep may be as easy as changing what you eat.
A survey commissioned by the Cherry Marketing Institute and conducted online by Harris Poll in January 2017 among more than 2,000 adults suggests that Americans may be open to alternate sleep solutions. An overwhelming 83 percent of Americans would prefer to improve their sleep through diet rather than using over-the-counter sleep aids.
One promising solution that doesn’t require a trip down the pharmaceutical aisle: Montmorency tart cherry juice, which has been scientifically studied for its ability to help improve sleep quality and duration. Montmorency tart cherries are one of the few food sources of melatonin, a sleep-regulating hormone.
“Melatonin plays a big role in the sleep equation,” said Dr. Michael Breus, a nationally renowned sleep expert. “Without it, our bodies aren’t triggered to regulate the sleep cycle and therefore, we can’t get the rest we need. One simple, delicious and natural way to incorporate melatonin into your sleep routine is with Montmorency tart cherry juice. Research has shown adding two glasses of Montmorency tart cherry juice to your daily routine can improve your sleep quality and duration.”
A growing body of research suggests Montmorency tart cherry juice may help with sleep-related concerns, such as:
- Improving sleep efficiency
- Reducing the severity of insomnia and sleep disturbances
- Increasing sleep time
Tart cherries are available year-round in dried, frozen and juice forms at retailers across the country and online. For additional information, including more recipes like this soothing bedtime tea, visit choosecherries.com.
Tart Cherry Turmeric Bedtime Tea
Recipe courtesy of Kristina LaRue of LoveandZest.com
Prep time: 2 minutes
Cook time: 7 minutes
Yield: 2 cups
- 1 cup Montmorency tart cherry juice
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- 2 bags chamomile tea
- 1/4 cup frozen Montmorency tart cherries
- In small pot or tea kettle, bring tart cherry juice and water to boil. Stir in turmeric and ginger, and pour over tea bags and frozen Montmorency tart cherries. Steep 5 minutes. Remove tea bags and drink warm, at room temperature or chilled.
Source: Cherry Marketing Institute
(Family Features) Eating with heart health on your mind has never tasted so good. While many aspects of life can impact heart health, opting for nutritious foods plays an especially important role.
“Heart-healthy eating can be delicious and on-trend with vibrant colors and sweet-tart flavors. There are simple ways to add nutrient-rich ingredients to your favorite recipes that add depth of flavor and texture, too,” said Michelle Dudash, registered dietitian. “Packed with beneficial phytonutrients, including anthocyanins, research shows Montmorency tart cherries may help lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, reduce blood pressure, reduce inflammation and reduce belly fat – all factors linked to heart disease risk.”
Start the day off by blending frozen tart cherries into a Tart Cherry Granola Smoothie Bowl or incorporating dried tart cherries into your favorite trail mix when it’s time for a snack. This heart-healthy, ruby-red fruit has a distinct sweet-tart taste that makes an easy addition to a variety of dishes and is available year-round in dried, frozen, juice and concentrate forms.
To learn more about the health benefits of Montmorency tart cherries and find more delicious recipes, visit ChooseCherries.com.
Recipe courtesy of Sonja Overhiser of A Couple Cooks on behalf of the Cherry Marketing Institute
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup sliced almonds
- 1 cup dried Montmorency tart cherries
- 1/2 cup pepitas
- 2 1/2 cups frozen Montmorency tart cherries
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 lemon)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 ripe banana
- 1 cup almond milk, plus additional (optional)
- Heat oven to 325° F.
- In small bowl, whisk together olive oil, maple syrup and vanilla.
- In separate bowl, stir together oats, salt, cinnamon and almonds. Pour in mixture. Bake about 45 minutes until golden brown, stirring every 15 minutes and watching carefully near end of baking, stirring more, if necessary.
- Roughly chop dried cherries.
- When granola is baked, cool slightly then stir in cherries and pepitas.
Note: Granola can be stored in air-tight container up to 1 month.
To make smoothie bowl: Blend together tart cherries, lemon juice, maple syrup, banana and almond milk. If necessary, add additional milk for a smoother consistency.
Serve smoothie in bowl with 1/4 cup tart cherry granola.
Source: Cherry Marketing Institute