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Cherries

Cherries are tasty and delicious but also a super food––researchers have found that cherries may help you sleep better, avoid jet lag, and possibly lessen the symptoms of arthritis and gout. The secret to their success? A hormone called Melatonin that is synthesized in the brain, specifically in the pineal gland. Melatonin has been shown to slowing  aging and combat insomnia and jet lag.

For many, the first cherries are a sign of spring and renewal. First out of the gate are dark red Bing cherries, with yellow-red lava lamp–colored Rainers on their heels. Then come Brooks, a hybrid of the tried-and-true WWII-era Burlat and the groovy Rainier. Sequoias are a new up and comer. Black Tartarians are the darkest, and Gold cherries are the lightest, having no red pigment at all. There’s even a variety of cherry called the Bada Bing (I kid you not). But once you start seeing Sweethearts, you’re in the home stretch of the season.

Red cherries are in the super fruit category—they are packed with antioxidants—and tart cherries have 19 times more beta carotene than blueberries or strawberries (and those guys ain’t too shabby). Cherry juice is a well-respected supplement for athletes and people suffering from arthritis because of its anti-inflammatory component anthocyanin.

Preparation Tips

Pit cherries the old-fashioned way (with your mouth, being careful not to swallow the pit); use a handheld pitter; or carefully slice and de-pit with the tip of a paring knife. Cherry pit–spitting manners may vary from family to family—but a pair of cherries over the ears is in fashion everywhere. For more about all the different fruit tools, check out our entry on the Tools of the Fruit Trade.

Storage Tips

Unlike other stone fruit, cherries are picked ripe. They may be left on the counter for a couple of days out of direct sunlight or refrigerated in a plastic bag for several days. Do not wash until ready to eat, as excess moisture during storage can cause them to meet an untimely demise. When ready to use, rinse and let warm to room temperature for best flavor. (Although they’re also great pitted and frozen for a refreshing treat in the hot summer months!)
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