Today is Memorial Day in the United States, which means that (weather permitting) there will most likely be a handful of barbeques happening or family get-togethers all across the nation. Graciously, this also coincides with cherries coming back into season, and in thinking about this I felt remised that I’d somehow forgot to mention cherries up until just now. Unacceptable! Cherries are wonderful for a multitude of reasons, so I’d be doing a disservice by forgetting them entirely. Here’s today’s nutrition facts, spotlighting the great and delicious cherry.

Cherry Culture and History

As you’d hope, cherries have been around since the very beginning of human beings. The trees themselves grow wildly all over, but specifically through Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa. It’s not quite clear how old cherries are, but we know for certain that they were around during the prehistoric eras, so just assume they’ve been around forever and we can move on.

The first cultivated cherry, however, supposedly comes from Rome in the year 72 BC by Lucius Licinius Lucullus. He came from northeastern Anatolia, which is what we now know as Turkey, bringing with him the first recorded cherries, making Rome a nice hotspot for further cultivation. Since then they’ve popped up everywhere and experience quite the following, which is so surprise seeing as how simple they are to eat and delicious said eating turns out to be.

The US wouldn’t really start getting cherries until settlers brought them over in the 1600’s, though technically the US wouldn’t then get them until the United States were actually formed…okay, stop finding holes in my sentences here. Point is, North America got cherries in the 1600’s and then had then really flourish in the 1800’s. Today, Michigan grows around 75% of the cherry crop while Oregon and Washington have about 60% of the cherry crop. And- wait…my percentages are screwy. Okay, Michigan has tart cherries and the Pacific Northwest has sweet cherries. Got that? Let’s just move on already.

Health Benefits of Cherries

Despite being so sweet (or tart depending on which cherry trees you’re picking from), cherries are very low in calories, allowing you to eat a ton of them without feeling guilty. Along with few calories you get high numbers of antioxidants, which we all know are great for us and may in fact be helpful in reducing the risk of cancer.

One such antioxidant is melatonin, which easily crosses the blood-brain barrier, allowing it to sooth brain neurons and calm you down rather well, making cherries a great snack when you’re being stressed out, have headaches, or just can’t sleep. Weird how that works, but hey, I don’t usually need another reason to go ahead and eat a bowl of cherries!

As you’d expect, cherries have a ton of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, iron, zinc, copper, and even manganese. Even better, cherries have anti-inflammatory properties, meaning they can actually reduce the risk of heart disease by reducing the amount of free radicals in your bloodstream. So to sum up, cherries help reduce the risk of cancer, reduce the risk of heart disease, help you to feel less stressed, and have very few calories. Oh, and they can also reduce the risk of diabetes. Sold!

Eating More Cherries

You’re not going to need someone to twist your arm very hard to convince you to eat some cherries, so don’t give me that smirk. Cherries are as easy to eat as just walking up to a cherry tree, plucking a few, and popping them into your mouth, though do be careful not to crunch into a cherry pit as that’s one of the least enjoyable sensations ever.

Everyone knows about the classic and much-celebrated cherry pie, so I don’t even need to go into detail there, but I should bring up cherry tarts, cherry cupcakes, cherry muffins, cherry bagels, and cherry yogurt. Mixing cherries into anything, be they a salad or cereal or what have you is always a good idea as cherries are a perfect tart or sweet taste that combines with just about everything.

I’ve even suggest adding cherries to a pasta some time and seeing the results. Dried up, they’d have a texture similar to sundried tomatoes, or so I’d assume. But if you’re not looking to satisfy a specific hunger, you can just as easily put some cherries into a smoothie or a cocktail or a drink of some sort, like lemonade or even tea. Cherries don’t discriminate with their flavor, so be liberal with your cherry usage!

Now comes the time to ask you all what your favorite cherry recipes are. Is there a special dish you’ve always collected cherries for, or do you just prefer to eat them by themselves? Leave a comment and let me know! What better way to spend a Memorial Day than with an afternoon of collecting cherries? That sounds like a good idea to me!