It’s time for cherries! If you’ve ever picked cherries, likely you have an appreciation for how much labor goes into caring for and harvesting the delicate, tart orbs. You have just a few short weeks to harvest them and eat or process them later use. Depending on the variety, a single cherry tree can produce about 30 lbs of fruit each year. A single acre of land can be planted with several hundred trees. That’s a lot of little fruit, and although there are mechanical harvesters, most cherries are still picked by hand making them one of the most labor intensive fruits with the one of the shortest harvest season. But they are well worth it.
A little cherry history
Cherries are a drupe, meaning they have a pit in their center. Like other drupes, including apricots, nectarines, and peaches, they are a member of the rose family and are native to the western hemisphere of Europe and Asia. Written records of cherry farming date back to 72 BC Anatolia (modern day Turkey) and they found their way to America with the pilgrims. Today, only about 15 of some 500 plus varieties are grown for the American consumer. However, heirloom varieties are on the rise thanks to the natural food movements throughout the world and our nation.
Western nutritional highlights of cherries
Cherries range from a deep black/red to a golden yellow, and they are categorized as sweet or sour, even in western nutritional terms. Raw cherries provide dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A and minerals. Don’t look to cherries if you are seeking proteins, fats and or complex carbohydrates. That’s not their job – cherries clear and cleanse.
The Energetics of cherries according to Asian medicine
Cherries are energetically warm with a sweet and sour flavor.
Cherries strongly increase Qi – Cherries enter the Spleen and help create strength, use for exhaustion and fatigue. Cherries don’t merely build Qi, they strongly circulate it, as well. If you have poor circulation or constantly feel chilled – add in cherries.
Cherries build Blood – They enter the Liver and Heart and nourish blood. Great for anemia or patterns that need blood cleansing like arthritis, toxicity and diabetes. The redder the cherry, the more deeply blood building and nourishing.
Cherries astringe – Their sour nature astringes, helping to tighten and move out excess leaking conditions like excess sweating and frequent urination. They are especially beneficial in treating frequent urination at night.
Cherries fight inflammation – It’s their nature…literally. Inflammation is an obstruction which cherries reduce by their Qi building and moving nature. Their Blood cleansing removes excess acidity and toxins. Straight, tart cherry juice is one of my first recommendations for someone fighting gout.
Some western patterns that can be treated by cherries
- blood disorders
- excessive sweating
- fatigue and low energy – Qi deficiency
- frequent urination
- Liver disorders
- poor circulation
- Reynaud’s syndrome
7 Ways to Use Cherries
Cherries are delicate and only in season for a short period of time -use them quickly
Eat them fresh – We often over think eating. Sometimes the simplest form is best. Just wash and enjoy a handful of cherries. Use them in pie, tarts, soups or drop them into drinks.
Dry them – Drying will shift their nature making them more sweet, but this is a wonderful way to use them in cooler months. Wash and drain, and pit the cherries according to your dehydrator’s instructions – or, just lay them out for a few days away from moisture and where air can circulate easily. Great for hiking, an easy snack, in granola and as lunch treats. I use them in winter soups, hot grain cereals, tarts and compotes. Use puree to make fruit leather.
Freeze them – An easy way to save and use them. Just rinse and dry. Lay them out on a cookie sheet and freeze. After frozen, move them to a freezer safe container. Use later for sauces, desserts or add them to summer lemonades instead of ice cubes.
Preserve cherries – Jams, jellies and chutneys..oh my… It may take a little more time and a little more equipment, but it can be well worth it to have their delicious flavor anytime of year–great for gift giving. I love making jam, however time isn’t always on my side. I often opt for making just making fresh jam when I want it from frozen or fresh berries. Add clean and pitted cherries to sauce pan and cook over medium heat, adding a little water at a time until they break down. A little honey or maple syrup if needed, maybe a little cinnamon or nutmeg. Most fruits have pectin in them and will thicken a little as they cool, but with cherries you may want to add a little apple pectin.
Use them in soups – Fruit soups, warm or cold are common in the European cultures. Check out the Chilled Sour Cherry Soup.
Compotes & Sauces – Stew a few fresh, frozen or dried or canned cherries with a little red wine or juice (use a little more for the dried cherries). Add in a kiss of maple syrup and your favorite sweet spices like anise, cinnamon and nutmeg. Serve the hot compote over a hot grain cereal for breakfast or over hot quick bread like zucchini or pumpkin bread. Use cherries with a onions and savory herbs as a baste or marinade for grilling meats.