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30.07.2020

Now in season – cherries

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Summertime is cherry time

In April and May, the cherry trees enchant us with their blossoms, and then they delight our taste buds with their juicy fruits during the summer months. Besides cherry stone spitting, these little vitamin bombs are easy to prepare and can be used in all sorts of dishes. In 2019, over 50% of the cherries grown in the EU came from Spain, Italy and Greece, with over 305,000 tonnes harvested. However, of all the EU countries, Poland produces the most cherries, at almost 200,000 tonnes – roughly 1/5 of the EU total. Cherries are abidingly popular. 

Sweet or sour?

Botanically speaking, sweet and sour cherries are different species, but they are very similar. Both are classed as stone fruit and belong to the rose family.With sour cherries, a distinction is made between the amarelle and morello varieties, based on their juice. Morello cherries have a coloured juice, while the juice of amarelle fruits is colourless. The most famous variety of sour cherries is probably Prunus cerasus, which is also commonly known as the morello cherry. Its fruit is dark red and it has a tart taste. However, the full-blown taste of sour cherries is only winkled out by cooking them. Sour cherries are therefore perfect for making into stewed fruit, juices, cakes or jams. And they can do much more besides – they aren’t just suited to sweet treats. When used in chutneys, for instance, sour cherries provide a fruity yet tart flavour that is the perfect complement to meat dishes.Sweet cherries are divided into two groups based on the firmness of their flesh: soft-bodied black heart cherries and firm-fleshed white heart cherries.  And then there are numerous varieties of sweet cherry. White heart cherries are particularly flavoursome, so they are lovely eaten as they are. These fruits are very large and have a luscious pulp. Of course, they are also delicious in jams or desserts. Black heart cherries, by contrast, are much smaller and have a rather soft pulp, which makes them ideal for making cherry brandy.

Bursting with health

Cherries are rich in minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron and a good balance of provitamin A, B vitamins and vitamins C and E: they’re mini vitamin bombs. What’s more, 100 grams of sweet cherries have only 60 kcal, while the same quantity of sour cherries contains a mere 50 kcal. Cherries also contain the natural dye anthocyanin, which belongs to the group of polyphenols. These are excellent for the human body because polyphenols have been shown to prevent damage to cells by free radicals. And the pigment can do much more than that: it slows down the absorption of carbohydrates into the bloodstream and promotes the formation of hormones that lower blood sugar levels. It can counteract increased uric acid levels and thus reduce the symptoms of gout. Cherries are beneficial to an athlete’s diet, too, as they have an antioxidant effect that inhibits the inflammatory processes that can lead to muscle soreness. In other words, eating cherries promotes physical regeneration.

Storage

Like strawberries, cherries are delicious eaten as they are. If you can’t eat or cook all of them straight away, bear in mind that they won’t last for more than three days in the refrigerator. It’s best to leave the stalk on the fruit so that it stays fresh for longer. Of course, you can also freeze cherries, but don’t leave them in the freezer drawer for more than 10 months.

Cooking tips

Cherries do not ripen once they have been picked. In other words, you should only pick them when they are ripe and fully coloured. Generally speaking, cherries are rather delicate fruits, as they burst easily. With that in mind, you shouldn’t wash cherries under running water, as this can wash away some of their flavour. The easiest way is to wash the cherries carefully in a bowl of cold water just before eating them. Only remove the stalk after washing them, so that their flavour can’t escape. Anyone who’s ever had to pit a large number of cherries will know that it’s a laborious task. We recommend putting the cherries in the freezer drawer for a while, as this will make them easier to pit.You can use pretty much all the parts of a cherry. Cherry stones aren’t only good for spitting contests – you can also collect them and make your own cherry stone pillow. Simply rinse the gathered stones under hot water and leave them to dry. Take an old, clean pillow cover and fill it with the stones. The best method is to then sew it shut, or you could use a pillowcase with a heat-resistant zipper. The great thing about a cherry stone pillow is that you can heat it in the oven and then use it as a heat pillow, or put it in the fridge to make a cool bag. 

Fact or fiction?

After eating stone fruit such as cherries, apricots or plums, you shouldn’t drink any water or you’ll end up with stomach ache. Is that true? Well, yes and no. The combination of raw fruit and water in your stomach won’t cause stomach ache on its own. But eating too much uncooked fruit can certainly cause stomach pain or wind. The same also goes for vegetables, especially if uncooked. Fruit and vegetables also cause the build-up of intestinal gases. If your body isn’t used to consuming such a large quantity of fruit, it can lead to bloating and sometimes intestinal pain. The myth of not being able to drink water after eating cherries dates back to earlier times when drinking water was primarily drawn from wells, so the quality of the water was very different from what we’re used to in this day and age. Nowadays, you can happily eat your summer cherries and wash them down with a glass of water.

© NGV mbH, Photo: TLC Fotostudio
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