Celebrating Cherries

Sweet or tart, cherries are packed with good-for-you nutrients and a burst of juicy flavor. But they won’t be in season for long–so get your fill while you can. Here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy them.

Low in calories and high in antioxidants, cherries are a delicious snack right off the stem. But with the aid of one little tool—a cherry pitter—you can add the fruit to a wide range of foods, including salads, smoothies, barbecue sauce, and desserts. 

“Unless you are just popping them into your mouth, you need a tool to efficiently remove the pits,” says Dan Kish, head chef at Panera Bread®. “It’s much faster and cleaner than removing the pits with a knife.” A good model: the OXO Good Grips Cherry and Olive Pitter.

To take full advantage of the impossibly short cherry season, Dan stocks up on the fruit whenever he finds a flavorful harvest. “If you can, ask to taste before you buy,” he says. “Sometimes the worst-looking cherries have the best flavor—and vice versa. Not all cherries that look good taste good.” 

Try these delicious ways to add fresh seasonal (pitted) cherries to your table:

  • Add them to a green salad, top the salad with Gorgonzola cheese, and dress it with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
  • Stir a handful of cherries into your morning yogurt.
  • Spoon some on top of cereal or oatmeal.
  • Make an infusion: pour vodka or brandy over cherries that have been packed tightly into a jar, and refrigerate for two weeks. Serve brandied cherries over vanilla ice cream for an indulgent treat!
  • Toss cherries into a roasting pan with chicken, pork, or duck.
  • Mix some into simmering barbecue sauce or a red wine reduction sauce.
  • Bake a cherry cobbler or pie.
  • Add chopped cherries and toasted pecans to couscous, quinoa, or rice pilaf.

You may also want to freeze fresh cherries to use during the fall and winter months. Wash and dry them; pit if you’d like. Then lay them on a cookie sheet and “flash freeze” until hard, about 30 minutes. Remove them from the cookie sheet and freeze in freezer bags.

For a quick fix right now, stop by your local bakery-cafe and order a refreshing Frozen Cherry Limeade. This seasonal favorite is blended with ice and includes a puree of dark sweet cherries and tart red cherries, lime juice, and strawberry and apple purees. The natural sweetness comes from fruit sugars and cane sugar (not high-fructose corn syrup). 

Another option: make frozen cherry drinks at home. For a simple smoothie, blend 1 cup of cherries (fresh or frozen) with ½ cup of plain yogurt, ½ cup of orange juice, and a few mint leaves. Or try mixing ¼ cup of fresh cherry juice into a tall glass of sparkling water or seltzer.

“The most important thing to remember,” says Dan, “is to seize the moment. When you do come across ripe, flavorful cherries, enjoy as many as you can!”