After a strangely short apricot season, cherry season strolled into town. The pain of a super-short apricot season, thanks to the hail storms that knocked the precious fruit from the trees prematurely, was all but forgotten when I saw the first bags of cherries on the shelf at our local Porter’s Grocery Store.
The first bags I saw and grabbed were California cherries. They were bright red, and pretty tart. Before too long, the dark red, sweet Bing cherries came to town all the way from the Pacific Northwest. We stocked up on all of them. Cherries, like watermelon and peaches, just scream, “It’s summer!” to me.
I washed pounds and pounds of cherries at a time, and kept them in the refrigerator, ready as a snack when I needed something sweet. I cut them up to add to our breakfast oatmeal, and used them for the occasional chocolate cherry cobbler that I just had to make to use up those cherries.
Cherries are part of the fruit group called “stone fruit.” A stone fruit is a fruit with a large stone inside. The stone, also referred to as the pit, is sometimes called the seed, but that’s not really accurate because the seed actually is inside the stone. Some examples of other stone fruits are peaches, nectarines, plums, lychees, mangoes, almonds and apricots.
Cherries have long been known to provide excellent health benefits. Of course, this doesn’t include the candied maraschino cherries that come in jars and are often used in pineapple upside-down cakes and as garnish for Shirley Temple drinks and other adult beverages… maraschinos contain extra sugar and aren’t as healthy as the un-candied fruit.
They’ve often been called, “America’s super fruit,” and cherries offer key nutrition for a long and healthy life. They’re packed with anthocyanins, powerful phytonutrients that jump-start your immune system and give cherries that red hue.
One cup of cherries has about 90 calories and is an ample supply of fiber, protein, and vitamins A and C, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
There’s lots of dietary information available that supports the benefits of ingesting real cherries and drinking tart cherry juice, but here are a few of the high points.
Eating cherries leads to a boost in antioxidant activity in the body, even after just one-and-a-half servings of tart cherries, commonly called sour cherries. Those first California cherries I bought this season were tart.
Eating real cherries and drinking cherry juice helps with arthritis and inflammatory conditions. Cherries help lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. They help lower the risk of colon cancer. Cherries help lower the risk of heart disease. They help improve your memory. And, as if all of that wasn’t good enough, drinking tart cherry juice helps you get a good night’s sleep.
Cherry season is one of my favorite seasons here in Far West Texas, even though cherries are not native to the area, nor do any of them I’ve ever enjoyed even grow here. I recently learned that there’s a Cherry Festival in New Mexico each June, and at several orchards in that area near Alamogordo, you can pick your own cherries during summer months. I’d say that would be totally worth a four-and-a-half-hour drive. I’m putting it on our calendar for next year, but am thankful we can buy fresh cherries during the summer months and frozen cherries year-round.
Chocolate Cherry Cobbler
4 cups fresh or frozen dark cherries, pitted
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons corn starch
1-1/4 cup water
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons cocoa powder OR cacao powder – I used cacao and it was amazing!
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 cups milk
1 stick butter melted
In a small bowl, mix the corn starch with 1 cup water and set aside. Place the pitted cherries in a large pan with 1/4 cup water and begin to heat them over medium heat, stirring to keep the cherries from burning. As the cherries begin to heat, they will release juice. Add the sugar and cinnamon, stirring until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute stirring constantly, add the corn starch mixture to the cherries and cook until the mixture is thick.
Remove from the heat immediately. Set aside.
Melt butter and pour it in the bottom of a 9X13 baking dish.
Mix flour, sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt and baking powder together.
Add the 1-1/2 cups milk and mix until completely blended.
Pour the batter on top of the melted butter.
Spoon the fruit over the batter.
Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out relatively clean. Up in the Davis Mountains at 5,000 feet above sea level, it took 44 minutes, but everything takes longer to bake here.
You can cool the cobbler, or serve it warm. Top it with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or just eat it straight up.
Printed with permission of the Alpine Avalanche