There’s something of the jewel about cherries – their colour, their shape, their size, the way they shine (and yes, their price!). Nutritionally, they’re even more precious, punching way above their weight. Indeed cherries make it into the top 20 superfoods when it comes to antioxidants – and that’s just one reason they’ve been the subject of over 50 studies in the last few years (antioxidants are molecules that neutralize the free radicals bombarding our cells every day and thought to cause ageing and some degenerative diseases). Sour cherries, sometimes known as tart cherries or Montmorency cherries, are king pin (just one cup contains 4,873 antioxidants) but plain old sweet cherries are almost as impressive, containing a unique set of antioxidants not found in any other food.
Research suggests that cherries are such a powerful anti-inflammatory they can help with arthritis, gout and Alzheimers. The combination of fibre, vitamin C, carotenoids, and anthocyanins has been shown to inhibit several types of cancer. Other studies suggest that cherries can help with heart health and reduce the risk of diabetes. On top of this, cherries are one of the few natural sources of melatonin – meaning they’ll also help you sleep better. You can read the serious stuff at http://www.immunehealthscience.com/support-files/cherrynutritionalreport.pdf
Or take my word for it and go and buy some cherries right now! The best way to eat fresh cherries is in season (yes, that’s now), just as they are, straight from the bag. But with dried sour cherries and frozen cherries readily available, there’s no reason to eat cherries only in June.
I’ve been looking at savoury dishes that use fresh sweet cherries combined with dried sour cherries and this is my all-time favourite – even Carnivorous Husband loves it! With the inclusion of brown rice, kale, almonds, pumpkin seeds and tangy goat’s cheese, this dish provides almost every nutrient going. You can replace the goats cheese with feta (or miss it out altogether), the kale with spinach, watercress or rocket, and the almonds with walnuts or hazelnuts. The whole dish can be prepared in 20 minutes. Use the freshest cherries you can find and don’t be tempted to leave the stones in (I have a stone-removing gadget that saves a lot of faffing around but Susan uses her fingers). The cherry season is short so go on … what are you waiting for?
SWEET AND SOUR CHERRY GRAIN BOWL WITH KALE, ALMONDS AND GOATS CHEESE
- 100 g brown basmati rice
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1.5 cups water
- ½ tsp sea salt
Cook the rice in the coconut milk and water for 20 minutes or as per packet instructions. While the rice is cooking, prepare the other ingredients:
- 2 handfuls of kale, stalks removed and shredded
- 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds, toasted
- 1 tbsp flaked almonds, toasted
- 10 dried sour cherries (I use the little packets of Forest Feast sour cherries from Waitrose but the tangiest dried sour cherries I’ve managed to unearth – also organic and entirely sugar-free – are from a range of dried fruit called Pearls of Samarkand and can be found in WholeFoods or some middle-eastern shops)
- 10 fresh cherries, de-stoned and halved
- 2 spring onions, sliced
- 50g goats cheese, crumbled
Arrange the rice on the kale, top with the remaining ingredients and drizzle over the pomegranate molasses dressing:
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 tbsp water
- 4 tbsp olive oil