By Lauren Cox, Closer to Your Food

You may find berries and cherries a-plenty in markets and stores this time of year, but people can be intimidated not to buy them. The delicate, organic varieties do not have a long shelf life, and many people just don’t know what to do with them besides eat them raw. Berries and cherries are actually nature’s little superfood secrets with amazing health properties. Plus, berries are actually quite low in sugar. We suggest giving them another chance, especially in the summer when you can buy beautiful, local, organic, RIPE varieties.

When shopping for berries and cherries, inspect for any mold, rotten or squashed fruit. Store these fruits in the crisper drawer of your fridge. When you bring the delicate berries home, carefully wash them in a colander under cold water and store them in a container lined with a paper towel to absorb any moisture. Cherries are a little tougher and do fine in a sealed plastic bag. We also highly recommend finding a pick-your-own-berry patch, as it is such a fun experience and a great way to get kids and adults involved in the food they eat. It is also important to shop for organic berries and cherries to avoid unwanted pesticides.

A Few Morsels

Cherries Can Help You Sleep

Cherries are actually one of the few plant sources of Melatonin, a hormone that lowers the body temperature, and in turn, helps you sleep.1

Cherries Can Help You Stay Slim

Cherries are packed with anthocyanins, which gives them their dark color. Anthocyanins are proven to speed up the body’s fat burning response.2

Berries Might Fight Off Parkinson’s

In a new study published in the Neurology journal, people who consume 2 servings of berries a week have a 25% less chance of developing Parkinson’s than their peers.3

Berries Fight Inflammation

The Antioxidants and compounds found in berries fight off inflammation and the diseases associated with it. Most notably, berries are very effective in preventing heart disease and lowering blood pressure.4

 

A Berry-Delicious Recipe

Cherry Berry Spread

2 cups cherries, pitted
3 cups fresh berries of choice (I did 2 blackberry and 1 raspberry)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup organic apple juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch sea salt

In a pot on high heat, add all ingredients and stir well. When the berries start to burst, reduce the heat to medium and stir.

Allow the mix to come up to a simmer and then move the heat to low. Cook about 90 minutes, stirring the mix every 15 minutes to ensure it doesn’t burn to the bottom of the pot. You are looking for the mix to reduce by about 75%.

When the berry mix is nice and thick, remove it from the heat and let it sit and cool at least 30 minutes. You can either can the spread in jars or store it in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

A Note on Pitting Cherries:

Pitting cherries is obnoxious. I’d recommend a cherry pitter tool to keep in your kitchen; but if you don’t have one, use the garlic smashing method. Use the flat side of your chef’s knife over the cherry and push down with a flat palm to crush the cherry. You can then simply remove the pit. This isn’t a great method for recipes where you want the cherry to be intact and pretty, but for sauces and fillings, it works great. You can also use a chopstick or straw to push the cherry pit straight through the bottom. You may notice a lot of juice on your cutting board too; just transfer it into the pot so it isn’t wasted!


References:

  1. http://www.forbes.com/sites/melaniehaiken/2012/06/30/5-surprising-foods-that-help-you-sleep/#604e64618689
  2. http://www.livestrong.com/article/303107-cherries-and-weight-loss/
  3. http://parkinsonsassociation.org/eating-with-parkinsons/
  4. http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/arthritis-diet/best-foods-for-arthritis/best-fruits-for-arthritis.php 

Closer to Your Food is a wellness blog focused on eating and cooking for health and sustainability with recipes and lifestyle tips formulated around a plant-based diet and home-grown local foods. Chef Lauren Cox holds a B.A. from the le Cordon Bleu in Culinary Management with over 8 years of fine dining experience in private dining, catering and Michelan star restaurants. For more information, please visit www.closertoyourfood.com and follow Closer to Your Food on Twitter and Facebook @Closer2YourFood. 


*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.