We are entering cherry season. They are not only one of the sweetest and tastiest of the red fruits, but they are also packed with health benefits. Cherries are a great source of fiber, vitamins A, C, and B-complex, phytochemicals, anthocyanins, and melatonin, all of which make cherries helpful in lowering bad cholesterol, maintaining healthy skin, protecting DNA from free radicals, fighting the risks of heart disease and colon cancer, and helping to fight insomnia. They also help reduce inflammation and arthritis pain.
At market, cherries usually can be found starting in June and lasting throughout the summer. Look for cherries that are shiny and plump with no blemishes, cuts, bruises, or stale and dry stems. Sweet cherries should be firm but not hard, while sour cherries should be medium-firm. Look for cherries with the stems still intact, they will have a longer shelf life. Also, try to buy organic cherries to avoid pesticide contamination.
You should store cherries unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and wash just before eating. Let them come to room temperature; the flavor will be much better. Use your fresh cherries within 2 to 4 days. Cherries can be frozen, but you should remove the pits first (otherwise, they will take on an almond flavor from the pit). Place pitted and washed cherries in a plastic bag with all the air removed and freeze, or place cherries on a baking sheet, freeze, and then store in a plastic bag. Frozen cherries can last in the freezer up to 10 to 12 months.