National Cherry Dessert Day and Sour Cherries

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.

the sour cherry tree
Botanical details of the sour cherry tree.

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.

May 26

It’s a National Holiday for Tart Pie Cherries in Desserts

Even though cherries seasonally ripen in June, the Presidents Day holiday gives February the honor of being named “National Cherry Month”.

luscious cherries
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.

 

  1. * Promotes circulation
  2. * May help you sleep better due to the melatonin content
  3. * Helps relieve migraine headaches
  4. * Helps prevent free radical damage
  5. * Helps you heal faster from muscle related sports injuries

 

Facts about Pie Cherries

Life's story on 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).

More Reason to Love the Tartness

Tart cherries have fewer calories and more beta-carotene than sweet cherries

dessert 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. [1]

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

Harvest Season

Tart cherries ripen two or three weeks after sweet cherries. Look for them in mid to late July.

The Dessert Side of the Story

Desserts are made of this
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.

classic latticed pie
classic latticed pie

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.

Fun for Cherry Dessert Day

Wear a cherry patterned apron, bake a cherry pie or make some quick and easy cherry cobbler to celebrate the day.
May 26

photo by Rusty Clark
Cherry cobbler | photo by Rusty Clark
Cherry Cobbler, Classic Recipe
Print Recipe
Cherry cobbler is like an easy, messy cherry pie, but that yummy topping soaking in the juices is what makes it such a well beloved dessert cousin of the cherry pie. Emeril uses cinnamon, but I suggest experimenting with mace or cardamom - two spices that complement the cherry flavor extremely well.
Servings Prep Time
8  15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Servings Prep Time
8  15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Cherry Cobbler, Classic Recipe
Print Recipe
Cherry cobbler is like an easy, messy cherry pie, but that yummy topping soaking in the juices is what makes it such a well beloved dessert cousin of the cherry pie. Emeril uses cinnamon, but I suggest experimenting with mace or cardamom - two spices that complement the cherry flavor extremely well.
Servings Prep Time
8  15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Servings Prep Time
8  15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Ingredients
TOPPING:
FILLING:
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a saucepan combine filling ingredients and cook, stirring until bubbling and thickened. Pour into an 8-inch square baking dish.
  3. Meanwhile, stir together flour, sugars, baking powder, and cinnamon. Cut in butter until it is crumbly.
  4. Mix together egg and milk. Add to flour mixture and stir with a fork just until combined. Drop topping by tablespoonfuls onto filling.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes until browned and bubbly.
Recipe Notes

Emeril's rendition of a classic

Share this Recipe

 

 

Alternative Cherry Pitter Choice
Leifheit 37200 Cherry Pitter with Stone Catcher Container | Cherry Stone Remover Tool

Leifheit 37200 Cherry Pitter with Stone Catcher Container | Cherry Stone Remover Tool

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

Yield: 8

Cherry Delight Cake

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
  3. In a medium-size bowl, combine butter or margarine, egg, sour cherries, almond extract, and nuts: add to flour mixture.
  4. 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.
  1. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine cherry juice, cornstarch, sugar, almond extract, and butter or margarine
  2. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Serve the Cherry Delight Cake with Hot Cherry Sauce and whipped cream.

 

February is…

National Cherry Month

A Look at the Harvest