Get Ready For The Fresh Cherry Harvest

Debbie Melvin  |  6/20/2007 8:47:28 PM

Fresh cherries are a nutrient dense food and for a relatively low number of calories, the consumer receives a significant amount of quality nutrients and phytochemical. Cherries are loaded with several types of key antioxidants, but are especially rich in an antioxidant called anthocyanin, the natural pigments also responsible for the glorious red color. In fact, cherries have almost twice as much of this antioxidant as red grapes. Antioxidants are vital in canceling out the cell-damaging effects of free radicals, which are linked to cancer and cardiovascular disease. Anthocyanin have a potent anti-inflammatory effect. Eat a cup full and you’ll only get about 100 calories, 3 grams of fiber and no sodium or fat.

Cherry juice retains the antioxidants of the fruit. But beware of products that claim to include cherry juice, especially if marketed to treat or prevent arthritis. Last year the FDA sent warning letters to companies that claimed cherry-based products could treat or prevent chronic diseases. The companies cited were marketing dried fruit, fruit juice, and juice concentrate. Wouldn't’t you rather eat the delicious cherries anyway?

The Northwest Cherry Growers suggest that for optimum flavor, you should eat cherries fresh from the tree. Well, I would be happy to if they would pay my way there. Since cherries do not ripen further after being picked, select firm, plump, shiny bright red cherries with green stems. Plan to refrigerate them for just one to three days after purchasing them in the grocery store. But if you get lucky and find them at a good price, plan to freeze some. Rinse and drain cherries thoroughly. Spread cherries with stems intact in a single layer on a baking sheet. Freeze until firm. Pack into freezer-proof containers or plastic freezer bags. Remove excess air, cover or fasten tightly and freeze. Or, to dry sugar pack, add 1/3 cup sugar for each pint of pitted or unpitied fresh sweet cherries. Toss lightly to coat the cherries. Fill freezer containers or bags and shake to pack the fruit. Add more cherries to fill containers or bags. Cover tightly and freeze.

Here is a recipe from the Northwest Cherry Growers. With mustard for sharpness and cherries for sweetness, this chicken recipe is delicious.

Cherry Mustard Chicken

  • 1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken
  • Salt and freshly milled black pepper
  • Flour for coating chicken
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 cups pitted sweet cherries
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onion

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper, then lightly toss in flour. Shake off excess. Heat half the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add half the chicken. Cook 8 to 10 minutes, turning occasionally, until chicken is golden and cooked through. Remove to platter and keep warm.

Repeat with remaining oil and chicken. Stir wine, chicken broth and mustard into skillet, scraping up browned bits.

In small bowl, mix cornstarch, vinegar and water. Stir into skillet. Add cherries and boil mixture, stirring until sauce thickens, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in green onion. Pour sauce over chicken and serve. Serves 4.

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