This week it’s all about cherries!
Besides being delicious, cherries have many benefits.
For instance, a chemist at Michigan State University found that cherries act like a pain reliever similar to aspirin or naproxen. They can block inflammation and pain enzymes to help relieve pain. Studies found just one bowl of cherries a day can help lessen pain from diseases like arthritis.
Cherries also help reduce muscle pain. One 2010 study from Britain’s Northumbria University showed that runners who drank cherry juice twice a day, five days before a marathon experienced less muscle inflammation and recovered their strength more quickly than runners who drank a placebo.
Fresh cherries should be clean, bright, shiny, and plump with no blemishes. Sweet cherries should have firm, but not hard, flesh while sour cherries should be medium-firm. The darker the color, the sweeter the cherry.
Avoid cherries with cuts, bruises, or stale, dry stems. You’ll find stemmed cherries less expensive, but be aware that cherries with the stems intact will have a longer shelf life.
Unopened canned cherries can be stored on the shelf up to a year. Once opened, keep the canned cherries in a covered container in the refrigerator and use within one week. Unopened dried cherries will last up to 18 months.
Store unwashed cherries in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, and wash just before eating. Before eating fresh sweet cherries, leave them out on the counter for a few hours as the flavor is much better at room temperature. Fresh cherries should be consumed within two to four days.
How to Freeze Cherries
You can freeze fresh cherries, but they should be pitted first, otherwise they will take on an almond flavor from the pit. The juice from cherries will stain clothing so be careful if you pit your own cherries.
You can also freeze whole, pitted sweet cherries in 40 percent syrup (4 cups water plus 3 cups sugar) with 1/2 teaspoon ascorbic acid (or citrus juice) added per quart of liquid.
They may also be pitted and frozen without liquid in plastic bags with all the air removed.
To freeze sour cherries for pie filling, stir 3/4 cup of sugar into each quart of pitted, whole sour cherries. Pack in rigid airtight containers with 1/2-inch headspace or airtight bags. Frozen cherries will last ten to twelve months in the freezer.
Cherries have a very short season so depending on where you live, catch them in season and eat them every day. Or use the information in this letter and eat them all year long. I enjoy freezing them and using them in smoothies when I want a break from my favorite blueberries!