There’s something almost indecent about eating cherries. Maybe it’s the way their thick juice can trickle down your chin or coat your fingers in deep red stickiness. Or perhaps it’s how the warm ripe fruit bursts in your mouth with glorious sweetness. Cherries can be deliciously messy and in season the genuine pleasure of eating them is hard to beat.

Cherries shipped from overseas at the wrong time of the year don’t do credit to what ‘real’ cherries should taste like. Similarly, cherry flavouring in products is one of my least favourite; the flavour tastes as fake as it is. This might in part be down to the slightly bitter benzaldehyde that’s often used to create it, but also because it’s very difficult to capture the genuine summery glory of ripe, luscious cherries.

One of my earliest memories of cherries is an amazing layered ice cream cake my mum used to make. It was a mix of rich chocolate ice cream, chopped up cherries and coconut with piped cream rosettes on top, all frozen in a loaf tin. And of course there’s the ubiquitous Australian chocolate treat, the Cherry Ripe (a mix of cherry and coconut smothered in dark chocolate). More recently I’ve been very lucky to have leftover cherries donated by my friend, Suzanne. She was drowning in an abundance of cherries on her trees at home, so I was more than happy to take a few off her hands. She brought big bags of them into work and I loved seeing faces contort into various shapes of ecstasy as they popped the juicy homegrown cherries in their mouths.

As well as looking and tasting beautiful, these little fruits are a powerhouse of nutrients. They have particularly high levels of antioxidants, which can help fight off nasty free radicals (the theory is that free radicals try to ‘steal’ back their missing electron from the chemical structures in our bodies, damaging that structure in the process; antioxidants can help to supply the missing electron, rather than it coming from those structures in our bodies). There was even a study done by Michigan State University which showed drinking one glass of tart (sour) cherry juice can slow down aging. Whether or not cherries will improve my wrinkles, I think one of the main benefits of cherries is the happiness and pleasure of eating them.

It’s best to store cherries in the fridge, but don’t wash them until you want to eat them. As with a lot of stone fruit, they taste better when they aren’t completely chilled. If you’re eating cherries straight from the fridge, I suggest taking them out a little before you want to eat them to take the chill off.

Cherries freeze well, but wash and dry them first. If you can, freeze cherries in a layer on a tray first before putting them into an airtight container or freezer bag (you can skip the tray step if you like, but it will stop the cherries freezing into a big cherry blob). You can freeze cherries whole, but if you stem and pit them first you can add them straight into cooking or smoothies.

One small warning for people with IBS: cherries are one of the FODMAP foods to limit as they’re quite high in fructose. It’s probably best not to overindulge if you’re sensitive to these kinds of foods.

 

Cooking with cherries

 

5 ways to eat cherries

 

Naked

It’s pretty hard to resist eating cherries just as they are. If you want to pimp them up a bit, add a scoop of thick Greek yoghurt. I also love the earthiness of goat’s milk yoghurt with the sweetness cherries. A little sprinkle of cinnamon over the top is a nice addition.

 

Smoothies

Cherries are a lovely in a morning smoothie. A good combination is pitted cherries, frozen banana chunks, a little scoop of yoghurt, a handful of oats, ground linseed plus the milk of your choice.

 

Cooking with cherries

 

Roasted

This is a more unusual way to prepare cherries, but really concentrates the flavour. Remove the stones from 200 to 300 grams of cherries and put them in a single layer in a roasting tin. Coat the cherries in sugar (coconut sugar works well here) and a little light olive oil, then put in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees Celsius. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, turning once or twice, until the cherries have softened to your liking.

 

In Alcohol

There are some boozy partners that work really well with cherries, brandy and vodka in particular. You can get the double bonus of creating some lovely flavoured alcohol as well as alcohol-laced fruits to create decadent desserts with (like a bowl of brandy cherries with a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream).

Make sure you wash and de-stem cherries first. Dissolve half a cup of water and half a cup of sugar, then add your cherries and simmer for about 5 minutes. Pour over your bottle of vodka or brandy, and then leave to cool. Pour everything into a large, wide rimmed jar and leave for at least 4 weeks. If you want something even simpler, put the cherries into a large jar (don’t completely fill it), pour over a bottle of vodka, seal and wait.

 

Baking & desserts

There are some classic cherry desserts, with cherry clafoutis and cherry frangipane being two of the most popular. Cherries are lovely mixed into flapjacks or rich chocolate muffins. I’m also a sucker for cherries in a rich chocolate tart. If you’re looking for a quick and tasty dessert, dip cherries (with their stem on) in good quality, melted dark chocolate and leave them to set. You can serve the cherries on their own or as a topping for other desserts.

 

Cooking with cherriesCooking with cherries

 

Cherry flavour partners

Cinnamon, coconut, yoghurt, goat’s cheese, dark chocolate, almond, vanilla

 

Need more cherry inspiration? Here’s my pick of some tasty recipes:

Women’s Health 10 Cherry Smoothie Recipes

The Guardian’s Perfect Cherry Clafoutis

River Cottage Chocolate & Cherry Tart

Vegan Cherry Dark Chocolate Muffins

 

What’s your favourite way to eat cherries? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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