Cherries are not just the fruit of one particular plant. Cherries come from many different species of the plant genus Prunus. Not all Prunus tree fruits are cherries. Prunus trees also produce plums, apricots and peaches to name but a few. Cherries are a small, rich fleshy fruit with a stone in the middle. Their colour is usually dark red but can also be pale pink and even yellowy.

Origin of Cherries

The two cultivated forms of cherries are the Sour CherryPrunus cerasus, and the Wild CherryPrunus avium, also called Bing Cherry. Most cultivators grow the wild cherry variety, which is the variety most often utilized commercially. The sour cherry variety is the one most commonly associated with cooking.

The two species are not cross-pollinated although both originated in Asia and Europe. Due to their relative fragility under a barrage of rain or hail, the highly valued fruit is expensive compared to many fruits. Even so, wild and sour cherries are perpetually in high demand.

Cherry Fruit Production

Depending on where they are being grown, cherries become ripe for picking at different times of the year, but usually their peak season is the summertime. In North America and Europe, June is cherry picking time. In the U.K. and Canada, cherries are harvested in mid-July to August. Based on the data from 2007, annual production worldwide is about two million tons, 40% of that originating in Europe and 13% in the U.S.

Common Uses of Cherries

Cherries are used in many baking recipes for their tartness or flavorful sweetness, depending on the variety used. The cherry has also been found to have medicinal properties that have been proven to be beneficial in the prevention of some critical diseases and painful physical conditions.

History of Cherries

Lucius Licinius Lucullus is recorded to have brought a cultivated cherry from Anatolia to Rome in 72 BC. Later, King Henry VIII, who had enjoyed the fruit in Flanders, had the cherry introduced to his country at Teynham, near Sittingbourne in Kent, England.

Health Benefits of Cherries

The health benefits of cherries are quite impressive. A diet that includes cherries can help decrease body fat, cholesterol, arthritic inflammation, relieve headaches, gout and the associated symptoms of Fibromyalgia Syndrome.

Nature has provided us with so many delicious foods with high nutritional value. We are only beginning to realize the extent of that nutritional bounty. As science develops new technologies for the exploration of disease-preventing foods, we often find that the simplest things have complexities that offer significant health benefits. Cherries are being championed as one of the best in that category.

Cherries Help with Diabetes and Heart Disease

Cherries contain anthocyanins which is the red pigment in many fruits. The anthocyanins in cherries have proven to reduce inflammation and pain in laboratory rats. The anthocyanins have also been shown to be potent antioxidants and studies have indicated that they may be beneficial in the fight against diabetes and heart disease.

In addition, the anthocyanins in cherries resulted in lower levels of triglycerides and cholesterol in rats that were given a high-fat diet that included whole tart cherry powder mixed in.

Cherries are Rich in Antioxidants

Research also revealed that the health benefits of drinking one full glass of cherry juice daily equals the benefits of consuming 23 portions of vegetables and fruit. Furthermore, it was determined that drinking 250ml of cherry juice provides more antioxidants than five portions of tomatoes, carrots, peas, watermelon and bananas.

Antioxidants attack free radical molecules in the body and can also help prevent heart disease, ageing, cancer and stroke. The juice tested was from the Montmorency tart cherry variety which is U.S. grown.

Cherries are Rich in Vitamins and other Nutrients

Cherries contain numerous vitamins such as Vitamin C and Vitamin A, and are high in nutrients like beta-carotene, perillyl, ellagic acid, bioflavonoids and potassium.

Melatonin from Cherries

This delightful fruit also produces melatonin. Melatonin, in addition to helping slow the ageing process, also helps control healthy sleep patterns.

Adding Cherries to your Diet

Whether sweet or sour varieties, cherries have a pleasant taste and are perfect for desserts and snacks. They can be baked in pies, added to homemade granola bars or yogurt, or even eaten as whole fruit by themselves. A cherry is also the perfect topper for an ice cream dessert.

Black cherries and Bing Cherries are made into a tasty tea that provides a dose of healthy antioxidants.

Where to Buy Cherry

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Cherries Notes / Side Effects

Cherries are nutritious and generally safe but can cause side effects if consumed in large quantities. Potential side effects include digestive issues (diarrhea, gas, bloating, stomach cramps), allergic reactions (oral allergy syndrome, severe allergies), and impacts on blood sugar levels.

Excessive consumption can affect those on blood-thinning medications or with kidney issues due to their vitamin K and potassium content.

The natural sugars in cherries can also contribute to tooth decay, and swallowing cherry pits can be hazardous due to cyanogenic compounds.

Moderation is key to enjoying cherries’ health benefits while minimizing risks.

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