Wonderfully delicious, cherry fruit is packed with full of health-benefiting nutrients and unique antioxidants. Cherries are native to Eastern Europe and Asia Minor regions.
Botanically, the fruit is a “drupe” (stone fruit), belonging to the broad Rosaceae family of small tree fruits in the genus, Prunus. Some of the common “drupe” family fruits are plums, peaches, apricots etc. Although several species of cherries exist, two popular cultivars are wild or sweet-cherry, and sour or tart-cherry. While sweet cherries belong to the species of Prunus avium, tart variety belongs to that of Prunus cerasus.
Cherries are drupe fruits with a central “stony-hard” seed surrounded by fleshy edible pulp measuring about 2 cm in diameter. Externally they covered by bright "shiny" red or purple, thin peel.
The West Indian cherry, known as acerola (Malpighia emarginata) is native to West Indian islands and grown in Mexico, Texas regions in North America. Acerola belongs to tropical fruit-bearing shrub or small tree in the family Malpighiaceae and contains 2-3 tiny seeds. Acerola contains exceptionally high levels of vitamin-C and vitamin-A than North American and European cherries.
Cherries are one of the very low calorie fruits. Nonetheless, they are rich source of phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Both sweet as well as tart cherries are packed with numerous health benefiting compounds that are essential for wellness.
Cherries are pigment rich fruits. These pigments, in fact, are polyphenolic flavonoid compounds known as anthocyanin glycosides. Anthocyanins are red, purple or blue pigments found in many fruits and vegetables, especially concentrated in their skin, known to have powerful anti-oxidant properties.
Scientific studies have shown that anthocyanins in the cherries are found to act like anti-inflammatory drugs by blocking the actions of enzymes cyclooxygenase-1 and 2. Thus, consumption of cherries may offer potential health effects against chronic painful episodes such as gout arthritis, fibromyalgia (painful muscle condition) and sports injuries.
Research studies also suggest that anti-oxidant compounds in tart cherries can help the human body to fight against cancers, aging and neurological diseases, and pre-diabetes condition.
Cherries compose of melatonin anti-oxidant. Melatonin can cross the blood-brain barrier easily and has soothing effects on the brain neurons, calming down nervous system irritability. It, thus, can help relieve neurosis, insomnia and headache problems
Further, they are also small source of zinc; and moderate sources of iron, potassium, and manganese; and good source of copper. Potassium is a heart-healthy mineral; an important component of cell and body fluids that regulate heart rate and blood pressure.
The fruits, especially tart cherries are exceptionally rich in health promoting flavonoid poly phenolic anti-oxidants such as lutein, zea-xanthin and beta carotene. These compounds act as protective scavengers against harmful free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging, cancers and various disease processes.
Anti-inflammatory property of cherries has been found effective in reducing heart-disease risk factors through scavenging action against free radicals.
Acerola or West Indian cherry has exceptionally very high levels of vitamin-C (1677.6 mg per 100 g or 2796 % of RDA) and vitamin-A (767 IU per 100 g).
Cherry fruit season lasts from end of May until August in the United States. Fresh ripe cherries have short shelf life. In the store, choose cherries that have bright, shiny skin with green stalk firmly attached at the top end of the fruit.
Keep fresh cherries in the refrigerator. Whenever you wish to eat them, just rinse cherries in water to remove dirt and to bring them back to room temperature. Then, gently pat dry with soft cloth to remove moisture.
To prepare cherry, remove the stalk, wash them gently in cold water, and pat dry in soft cloth. Ripe ones can be eaten as a whole including skin to get the maximum benefits.
Sweet cherries are being employed in several recipes,
Tart cherries are mainly used in the preparation of sauce, pie fillings, jams, muffins and cheese cakes. Tart cherry fruit juice concentrates is a favorite refreshing drink among athletes and various sports personnel. Dried tart cherries make delicious additions to meals and snacks.
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