(BPT) - Fresh sweet Northwest cherries are a tasty summertime superfruit packed with nutrients. It’s easy to find fresh cherries during the summer, but the rest of the year may leave you yearning for the delicious and nutritious snack. Stock up on fresh cherries now and preserve their flavor and health benefits for year-round enjoyment.
Four reasons to stock up on sweet cherries while they’re fresh!
Sweet Northwest cherries are as healthy as they are delectable, making them the perfect treat to satisfy a sweet craving without the sugar spike. Northwest cherries boast incredible health benefits for the mind and body, including:
1. Fighting chronic inflammatory diseases
Sweet cherries can help prevent chronic inflammatory diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis and cancer. Inflammation has also been tied to increased risk factors of cancer and research is suggesting that sweet cherries may possess cancer-fighting properties.
2. Exercise recovery
Sweet cherries contain anthocyanins, which appear to shut down enzymes that cause tissue inflammation in a similar manner to ibuprofen and naproxen. Those anti-inflammatory properties also make cherries a great workout recovery snack.
3. Low glycemic, big on nutrients!
Sweet cherries boast a lower glycemic index than almost any other fruit and promote healthy blood glucose by releasing glucose slowly and evenly so blood sugar levels stay steady longer. According to a 2019 article in Trends in Food Science & Technology, cherry extracts reduce glucose blood levels and protect pancreatic beta-cells from oxidative damage, enabling them to continue balanced production of insulin.
4. Enhanced cognitive function
The anthocyanins found in sweet cherries may improve memory and cognition in older adults with mild-to-moderate dementia. Also, cherry phenolics appear to protect cells from damaging stress while the cherry’s serotonin reduces stress and improves mood.
Enjoy the sweet taste of summer all throughout the year.
Preserving sweet cherries can be quick and easy, and a great way to extend their short peak season. Two popular ways to preserve sweet cherries are freezing and drying.
Freezing sweet cherries
The first step in the freezing process is to rinse firm, ripe cherries — stems and all — in cold water and drain thoroughly. Next, decide how you’re most likely to use them. For snacking, you can leave them whole and just enjoy them off the stem later. If smoothies and sauces are your game, then pitting the cherries at this point will save time and mess later. Once that’s decided, pack the cherries in plastic freezer bags or freezer-proof containers, remove excess air, seal the package and freeze.
Drying fresh cherries
For dried sweet cherries, the simplest step is to use your oven to preserve this summertime superfruit, or even invest in a food dehydrator. The Northwest Cherry Growers recommend drying at 140-degrees Fahrenheit for six to 12 hours, low and slow. Once dry, they can be stored in plastic bags with the excess air removed, and stored in a dark, dry, cool place. Enjoy them straight, tossed into trail mix, as a sweet-tart topping for granola or oatmeal, or substituted for raisins in a favorite cookie recipe.
For more tips on turning your summertime snack into an all-the-time staple of a nutritious diet, or to learn more about the numerous health benefits of sweet cherries, visit the Northwest Cherry Growers website at nwcherries.com/sweethealth.