Cherries are more than their garnet-colored flesh and delicious flavor would lead you to believe…
Late summer might just be my favorite “season” at the farmers’ markets here on the East Coast. Tables and stalls of local producers are overflowing with ripe peaches and nectarines, fresh flowers cascade from their baskets like tidal waves, every shade of green imaginable is represented by the cornucopia of vegetables available, and on more than one seller’s table the prize of August sits — fresh cherries. It’s not just the outdoor markets cherries commandeer come August, grocery stores and even corner markets all seem to procure them, the fruits practically begging to fill a bowl and be lazily eaten under the canopy of some shady tree somewhere, the difficult-to-navigate pits forcing those eating them to slow down and just enjoy it… And probably have a pit spitting contest too (just be sure to aim for the compost). As you might imagine with any lucky fruit or veggie lucky enough to be chosen for a Wellness Encyclopedia post, cherries are more than their garnet-colored flesh and delicious flavor — turns out they’re super good for you, too! Today — and for the remainder of August for that matter — I’m celebrating cherry season. Read on to learn how these pretty stone fruits can benefit you, then be sure to whip up the recipe below the next time you need a little recovery time post-gym session.
What are they? The cutest stone fruit (or drupe) in the Prunus genus, cherries are believed to be native to Turkey before they were eventually exported to Europe and later, North America. Late summer is typically cherry season in North America, making August the perfect time to pick some up at your local market. The most common cherry available is the Bing cherry, but a wide variety exist, including sunset-colored Rainier, Coral, and Tulare, with most cherries coming from either Prunus avium (sweet and/or wild varieties) or Prunus cerasus (sour varieties).
What are the benefits? Your first tip-off that cherries might be kinda-sorta really good for you should be their dark outer skin. Generally, most fruits and veggies that feature dark or deeply hued outer skins contain high levels of antioxidants, collagen-boosting anthocyanins, polyphenols like quercetin, and carotenoids — cherries included! Cherries are also rich in vitamin C, which not only boosts immunity but aids in cellular turnover, keeping skin looking healthy, youthful and smooth. If you have trouble sleeping, try drinking a small glass of tart cherry juice before bed, as it’s been found to contain phytochemicals that aid in sleep, including melatonin, the hormone that regulates the sleep cycle. Athletes and casual exercisers can both benefit from the anti-inflammatory powers that cherries are believed to possess — cherries and tart cherry juice can help reduce muscle damage and increase healing time after intense exercise, and as a bonus, you might get the best sleep of your life after a good workout and some cherries! Try the restorative smoothie below after your next workout.
How do I use them? Like most stone fruits, cherries are incredibly versatile and work well in both sweet and savory recipes for any time of day. Try them in savory grain bowls nested next to avocado, walnuts and arugula, or tossed into a bright salad with almonds and crunchy romaine. Cherries are easily reduced to a sauce or glaze, and depending on direction can be used to top something sweet (like ice cream) or savory (like a protein). Use them as you would any fruit for dessert recipes, or take the healthy route and add them to juices, oatmeal, chia puddings, and of course – smoothies! …psst, like the one below.
Cherry Recovery Smoothie
1 handful fresh dark cherries, pits and stems removed
1 scoop protein powder of choice (either plain or vanilla)
1 cup frozen steamed veggies (I recommend either cauliflower or zucchini — or both!)
8 oz coconut water
1 tsp coconut butter
¼ tsp almond extract (optional)
1 cup ice
Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend on high until smooth. Pour into a cup and enjoy! Top with unsweetened dried coconut flakes if desired.
+ Be sure to check out more Wellness Encyclopedia posts!
This information is not intended to treat, diagnose or prevent any disease or issue. Please seek your doctor’s advice for any questions regarding a specific condition and before beginning any exercise, diet or health-related regimen.