We’ve all heard the old saying, “eat it because it’s good for you.” Most of the time that means, whatever it is, won’t taste good. We cringe and choke down the offending, but healthy food and reward ourselves with something tasty and unhealthy. What if there’s a food that is healthy and absolutely delightful to eat? I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like sweet cherries and they are little healthy powerhouses that no one should feel guilty about eating.
Most climates can grow a sweet cherry tree
Sweet cherries are the candy of the fruit world and they are at their best when eaten fresh. Here in North America, most sweet cherries are grown in the Pacific Northwest. However, they can be successfully grown in USDA zones 4-7. If you want to plant a tree, bear in mind that most cherry trees are not self-fertile and require at least one other variety grown with them to successfully set fruit. Check with your nursery to make sure you don’t need two varieties. One exception, is the dwarf cultivar, ‘Stella’ which is self-fertile. There is even a participating PlantScout vendor attached to the database page. Cherry trees like sunny conditions, fertile, well drained soil and good air circulation. Plant in early spring or autumn for best results. A standard cherry tree will start producing in about 4 seasons while the dwarf varieties will produce in about 3. As an added bonus, cherry trees are breath-taking when in bloom, so are a good addition to the landscape. Once the trees set fruit, you’ll most likely need to cover them with bird netting, as our feathered friends adore cherries too. If you prefer to share your harvest with the critters, cherry trees are an excellent addition to a wildlife garden.
Sweet cherries are good for your health
Cherries are such a healthy treat. One cup of fresh, sweet cherries is only 90 calories. They have 3 grams of fiber, 18% of a day’s Vitamin C requirement and 260 mg of potassium, along with several other trace minerals and vitamins. They are also rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Arthritis and gout sufferers also benefit from the way cherries suppress inflammatory proteins. When combined with allopurinol, a gout medication, cherry consumption decreased flare ups by as much as 75%. Cherries also contain melatonin and eating them or drinking cherry juice before bedtime can help sleep quality. It is amazing that something so tasty is so healthy.
Sweet cherries are versatile and used in many ways
You can do many things with sweet cherries, from tasty deserts, summer salads, ice cream and smoothies, to oatmeal toppings and delicious breads. Some creative chefs think outside the box and come up with savory chutneys, barbecue sauces, salsas and brave cooks have even added cherries to their chili, although true Texans would take issue with that. We’re going to use sweet cherries in a couple of interesting ways this week. A cherry sauce great for basting meats and a fresh sweet cherry salsa made with avocado.
Easy, savory sweet cherry sauce
For the savory cherry sauce, put 2 ½ cups of chopped, pitted sweet cherries in a saucepan and add a small diced onion. Add a tablespoon of olive oil, a couple tablespoons of chopped, fresh rosemary, or one tablespoon of dried. Add a good splash of balsamic vinegar and a tablespoon of honey. Cook over medium heat until everything is blended together well and the moisture is reduced to a thick sauce. That took about 15 minutes for me. This is a wonderful addition to pan-seared pork chops, roasted chicken or simply as a barbecue sauce. It also makes a great dip for shrimp and other seafood. Store any unused portion in the refrigerator.
Salsa with sweet cherries and avocado
Sweet cherry salsa is another way to get the perfect taste of summer. Take 2 cups of pitted, chopped cherries, dice a shallot or small onion and add your chosen chopped pepper to get your desired level of heat. Personally, I like a small, hot banana pepper, without the seeds. Add cilantro to taste if you wish. Stir in about a tablespoon of olive oil and the juice from a lime. Fold in diced avocado and salt to taste. If you are really brave, add a splash of tequila. Of course you can just scoop it with chips, or on a taco. However don’t overlook other uses. It is lovely with grilled chicken or salmon and of course pork. Top your grilled burgers with this taste of summer too. If any is left over (which is unlikely) store in the refrigerator.
Enjoy cherries this summer
Sweet cherries are one of the tastiest treats of summer and it would be a shame to miss out on something this delicious and healthy. They make great snacks for kids, however do pit them and cut in half for the smallest kiddos to eliminate choking hazards. I happen to like them simply washed and in a bowl as I sit at my desk. However you enjoy them, it’s the perfect time of year for these little ruby jewels.
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