Cherries– Kewpie dolls with a message

There is something precious to me about cherries. Round, red, shiny, cute as can be. To see them all piled up at the market feels like I’m being hit with a thousand dimpled smiles and my heart can’t help but smile back. They evoke memories of childhood summers….bare feet, warm nights, stained lips and cherry pit fights.

Besides adorable and loaded with vitamin C, potassium, and bone strengthening boron, cherries claim to fame is their ability to control inflammation. A growing body of scientific research indicates that inflammation contributes to diseases such as heart disease, arthritis, and obesity. A study from University of California at Davis found that regular consumption of cherries for 28 days produced a decrease in biochemical signs of inflammation in blood, including a 25 percent reduction in C-reactive protein (CRP). Elevation of CRP in blood is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Anthocyanins are the plant pigments that give cherries their rosy redness. These phytonutrients have been studied extensively and their benefits are two-fold: they act as potent antioxidants that offset free radical damage and they inhibit pro-inflammatory cyclooxygenase enzymes 1 and 2. Inhibition of these pro-inflammatory enzymes is the same mechanism by which NSAIDS seek to work. Researchers have found that it takes about 20 tart cherries to produce an anti-inflammatory response. With 2 ibuprofen in one hand or 20 cherries in the other, I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy the message of cherries better!

Fresh Cherry Salsa – makes ½ cup

I wanted to create a versatile recipe that gives sweet cherries a little sass and attitude. This inflammation fighting salsa is lively and fresh whether it’s loaded into a fish taco, spooned over cooked sweet potato, mingled with cabbage and turned into a slaw, or eaten by the spoonful while wondering what to do next. Enjoy fresh cherries while in season….they will be gone in a blink!

1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and roughly chopped
1/3 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced small
2 Tablespoons minced red onion
2 teaspoons minced jalapeno
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice, to taste
1-2 pinches of sea salt
2 Tablespoons cilantro, roughly chopped
1 Tablespoon pumpkin seeds, toasted

Place cherries plus their juices, cucumber, onion, jalapeno, lime juice and salt in a small bowl, mixing to combine. Taste and adjust with more lime if needed. Stir in cilantro and seeds.

Catherine McConkie 2013, all rights reserved

Chef C’s tips:

  • To pit cherries, start at the stem end and run your knife around the natural seam down to where you feel the pit. A dazzling alternative is to place the stemmed cherry on the opening of some sort of empty bottle with the stem end up. Grab a straw or chopstick and press down. The pit will pop through the other end and fall into the bottle. No fuss, no muss.
  • Keeping cherry stems attached until ready to eat protects the vulnerable stem end from allowing fruit spoiling molds and bacteria to enter
  • Jicama makes a great substitute for cucumber

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