(StatePoint) There are few things more quintessentially summer than cherries, which provide a powerful, bite-size health boost. Packed with antioxidants, beta-carotene, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, iron and fiber, they can keep busy families charged for those active summer days.
A tasty treat at breakfast, dinner or even happy hour, the very best cherries are available now, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only time you can enjoy summer’s succulent fruit.
“Now is the time to take steps to preserve those delicious cherry flavors you can enjoy all year long,” says Chris Romano, produce buyer for Whole Foods Market, which strives to provide high-quality, plump and sweet cherries in their stores.
Here are three easy preservation techniques:
• Frozen: To freeze cherries, remove pits and stems and then spread in a single layer on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. Once they’re frozen solid, transfer to a freezer-safe container. Learn how to pit your cherries here.
• Dried: To dry cherries, remove pits and stems, and then spread on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet, or on an oiled rack fitted into a rimming baking sheet. Bake at 200 degree F for several hours (possibly 6-8), until cherries are dried and wrinkly.
• Syrup: Preserve cherries in the fridge for one to two weeks by making a quick skillet jam or syrup to drizzle over pancakes, ice cream or even into sparkling water for a refreshing summertime drink. Follow this recipe to make 1 2/3 cups of Cherry Syrup:
1 1/2 pound cherries, stems removed
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Combine cherries, sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a large saucepan and place over medium heat. Cover and cook until bubbling, about 4 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring frequently until cherries are very soft and starting to fall apart, about 30 minutes more. Allow to cool.
Place a strainer over a bowl. Pour in cherry mixture. Press down on cherries with a wooden spoon to extract as much juice and pulp as possible. Discard solids. Stir lemon juice into syrup. It will keep refrigerated a week or more.
How to Pit a Cherry
Want to quickly toss some cherries into a bowl of cereal, on top of ice cream or into a salad? Making cherry pie? There are several ways to pit a cherry quickly.
Cherry pitters make easy work of it, but cherry lovers can also use a glass bottle with an opening smaller than the cherry and a chopstick. Simply place the cherry stem side down in the class bottle and punch the chopstick through the middle.
For more tips and ideas for using fruits and vegetables, visit www.WholeFoodsMarket.com.
Make the most of cherry season by enjoying them fresh now, and saving some of that sweet, summertime flavor for later.