When baked into a pie or balanced on a sundae, cherries are as iconic as the American flag. But these small stone fruits, which happen to be Martha’s favorite, also offer antioxidants and vitamins when eaten fresh. Enjoy them right now, while they’re at their plumpest and most plentiful. They come in sweet and tart (also known as sour) varieties; however, most cherries have ruby hues that come from ultra-high levels of anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant. Reap the benefits by eating the fruit often: A couple of handfuls three times a week may slash the risk of heart attacks in women, specifically, by 30 percent over time. The same serving size reduces inflammation, can help prevent cardiovascular disease, and sneaks in some immune-boosting vitamin C.
How to Choose Them
Sweet cherries hit markets as early as May, and tart ones peak in July. Both wind down by August. Look for firm, blemish-free drupes that feel heavy for their size.
The fruits fade quickly at home, usually within four days, so keep them cold and dry to help them last longer: Refrigerate them in an open container, and rinse just before eating.
Pit Them Like a Pro
Pluck the stem and place the fruit on the opening of a thin-necked container (an empty wine bottle works well). Then push a straw or chopstick through. Pop!
Stick to fresh cherries for the biggest health hit (they retain antioxidants when dried or juiced, but often with the catch of added sugar). Pair sweet kinds with protein for a well-rounded meal: Toss them with onion, lime juice, and mint or cilantro for a salsa to serve over roasted salmon or grilled tilapia. The tart type is extra-dense in nutrients. Combine dried ones with roasted nuts in an energy-boosting trail mix, or for a double whammy of antioxidants, blend them with frozen ones or cherry juice in a smoothie.
Watch Healthy Appetite host Shira Bocar whip up a quick and healthy cherry smoothie: