Among the more obscure nationally proclaimed holidays, were you aware of the day set aside to celebrate cherry desserts? Well there is one! For most of us, that means the tart fruits of the sour cherry tree, the Prunus cerasus. The pie cherry has been consumed since prehistoric times. The earliest record of the cultivated cherry is recorded as having been brought to Rome by Lucius Licinius Lucullus from northeastern Anatolia, the country now known as Turkey.
Romans introduced cherries into Britain before the 1st century AD, where they became very popular in the time of Henry VIII.
In America, Massachusetts colonists planted the first sour cherry, ‘Kentish Red’, and they have since become a much loved fruit here. That variety of cherry tree may even have been the one in the famous legend of George Washington, who knows?
Whatever its history, it is the flavor that assures ongoing popularity, and reigns supreme in every type of dessert. For your own celebration, whether on the official day or not, some well loved recipes are included in this post along with the surprising health benefits and a bit of trivia about the fruits themselves.
Even though cherries seasonally ripen in June, the Presidents Day holiday gives February the honor of being named “National Cherry Month”.
They are tart, or sour, cherries from the tree Prunus cerasus. Their tartness makes them preeminent for the flavor they give baked goodies like cherry pie, cobblers, and other well loved recipes we remember from our mothers and grandmother’s kitchens.
While sweet cherries, from the Prunus avium tree, are best chosen for fresh eating, nothing beats a pie cherry for any recipe that calls for cherries for cooking.
Pie cherries with their tart and tangy taste create the zing that ignites a plain fruit pie into a memorable sweet summer surprise of flavor. Just the right contrast to the flaky crust of a home baked pie, or the biscuit topping of a cobbler.
Those “down home” desserts are only two of the ways you can use pie cherries to give your table a treat in the early summer month of June, or during other times of the year if you freeze or preserve the the cherries.
Tart Cherries Have Health Benefits
Health benefits of pie cherries include the fact that they have anti-oxidants.
- * Promotes circulation
- * May help you sleep better due to the melatonin content
- * Helps relieve migraine headaches
- * Helps prevent free radical damage
- * Helps you heal faster from muscle related sports injuries
Facts about Pie Cherries
- Pie cherries keep their bright red color when cooked, naturally
- Sour cherries, like the sweet, are picked ripe
- Look for cherries that are plump and brightly colored, cherries do not ripen off the tree.
- Store in the refrigerator and rinse just before using
- Cherries are highly perishable: Their shelf life is about four days in the refrigerator.
- Cherries can be frozen
- They may reduce the risk factors for diabetes and heart disease.
- 20 cherries a day might keep the gout away.
Of course there are even more cherry facts:
Cherries are one of the foods least often associated with food allergies according to World’s Healthiest Foods.
Findings on Remedying Gout
They are good for preventing gout. It is said, “six cherries a day” will keep the gout away, and it is certainly a delicious remedy to try. Research indicates that cherries have urate lowering properties. Uric acid crystal buildup is indicated in the onset of gout. (This is not medical advice, but information about the research results on the benefits of tart cherries).
Additional Health Benefits
Tart cherries are loaded with antioxidants that are believed to relieve the pain of arthritis and gout and help fight cancer and heart disease.
At more than 12,000 ORAC units per hundred grams of fruit, cherries have a higher antioxidant capacity than grapes, oranges, plums, raspberries and strawberries combined.
They’re also especially high in the antioxidant melatonin, which may help prevent or reduce brain deterioration associated with aging. And to top it off, they’re high in vitamin A and beta-carotene. 
Did you know? Dried cherries are made from the tart cherry variety. They have iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, folate, vitamin C and beta-carotene, as well as some melatonin- which is a hormone important biologically.
The Celebrated Pie Cherry
- Most tart cherries are grown in the state of Michigan in the USA. Traverse City, Michigan is called the “Cherry Capital of the World” and is host to the National Cherry Festival.
- In Australia, the New South Wales town of Young is called the “Cherry Capital of Australia” and hosts the National Cherry Festival of Australia.
- Fun Facts About Cherries: Cherry pits have been found in Stone Age caves.
- Thomas Jefferson, grew cherries on his plantation at Monticello
The Dessert Side of the Story
Cherries are good for you, but all that cream, sugar, and pastry? Maybe not so much… but the taste!
Besides pie, cobbler, or cherry dump cake, how can you fix this fruit as a dessert? Healthier choices to enjoy as desserts.
- Try cherries
- with yogurt
- with sherbet or gelato
- baked into oatmeal
Because of their tartness, most people will want to sweeten them, which makes them ideal for desserts.
Prepare Your Pie Cherries with Professional Quality Cherry Pitter
During the season when stone fruits are available, you may be buying fresh produce. In order to use them in desserts, it is necessary to remove the pits. If you have ever tried this, you know how much a kitchen gadget makes all the difference.
If you are going to pit lots of cherries this is a professional style of machine to make the job easy. Highly rated and recommended.
Alternative Cherry Pitter Choice
A cherry is a fruit with a hard seed pit which must be removed before using the cherries in baked goods. There are a number of types of gadgets to do the job, which is important to own if you have a large number of cherries to prepare.
Cherry Delight Cake
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon butter or margarine- melted
- 1 egg -beaten
- 2 cups fresh or frozen pitted tart or "pie" cherries- lightly drained reserve 1 cup juice
- 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts -walnut | pecans | or hazelnuts
Cherry Sauce (see recipe)
- 1 cup cherry juice
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
- In a medium-size bowl, combine butter or margarine, egg, sour cherries, almond extract, and nuts: add to flour mixture.
- Bake, uncovered, in an ungreased 9-inch square pan 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cut into squares.
Prepare Cherry Sauce.
- In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine cherry juice, cornstarch, sugar, almond extract, and butter or margarine
- Cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Serve the Cherry Delight Cake with Hot Cherry Sauce and whipped cream.
A Look at the Harvest