June and July are peak months for cherries and I wondered if they were as healthy as they are gorgeous. Cherries clock in at about 70 calories a cup and deliever an impressive payload of potassium, vitamin C, beta carotene, and phytosterols which lower cholesterol.
But what makes cherries a nutritional rock star are the anthocyanins found in the red pigment. These powerful antioxidants have been shown to reduce inflammation linked to heart disease and diabetes. Since inflammation also damages collagen, anthocyanins may reduce the development of lines and wrinkles.
Like many fruits, cherries are often used in delicious, albeit fat and sugar laden desserts. And one of my top guilty pleasures– brandy cherry sauce over roast duck or pork loin– in equally lethal. These days my favorite early summer dessert is a bowl of freshly washed cherries. If I want to show little more effort to take advantge of the cherry season, I make cold cherry soup. Its practically a staple in Northern Europe where it is served with sour cream. I like to top it with fat-free Greek style yogurt.
Hungarian Cold Cherry Soup
Ingredients: 3 1/2 cups water, 2 cups of pitted Bing cherries, 1/2 cup white wine, 8-12 packets of Equal, one cinnamon stick, 1/2 cup fat-free Greek style yogurt
Directions: Combine fruit, water, cinnamon stick and wine in a pot and simmer until cherries are very soft– about 5-8 minutes. Remove cinnamon and add Equal to taste. Serve cold topped with a dollop of yogurt.
Cherry soup tastes wonderful with a tea party style chicken sandwich or as a first course for a dinner of cold chicken on a hot summer night.
FYI– Dried cherries retain much of their antioxidant values but do lose a good bit of vitamin C and minerals. I love to add dried cherries to a bread stuffing for chicken or turkey, cook them with oatmeal or dump them into a quiona or rice pilaf.