In Season: Sour Cherries

By Wendy McMillan

Cherry pie lovers, your time is now. Ideal-for-baking sour cherries, including Morello, Montmorency, and Early Richmond varieties, have super-short growing seasons, making them available for only a few weeks in June and July. Also great for sauces and side dishes, sour cherries pack in more disease-fighting anthocyanins than most fruits while offering vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, iron, fiber, folate, and 19 times more beta-carotene than blueberries or strawberries. Studies show sour cherries can also help ease arthritis pain and reduce risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.

Sour Cherry Plum Sauce
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepan. Add 1 cup fresh sour cherries, pitted and stemmed; and 1/3 cup honey, stirring to coat. Add 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar; 1 teaspoon dried sage; pepper to taste; and 3 medium plums, pitted and chopped. Bring mixture to light boil, then reduce heat and simmer 12 to 15 minutes. Serve over grilled or baked chicken.

Cherry Pilaf
In a saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add 1/2 cup diced red onion; 1 cup fresh sour cherries, pitted and chopped; 1/3 cup thinly sliced celery; and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Heat on medium-low, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes. Toss with 3 cups cooked long-grain brown rice and 1/2 cup toasted, sliced almonds.

Sour Cherry Almond Crisp
In a saucepan, cook 4 cups pitted, chopped, fresh sour cherries; 1/2 cup honey; 1/2 cup water; and 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Heat on medium-low, stirring, for 10 minutes, then pour into an 8-inch-square baking pan coated with cooking spray. In a bowl, prepare topping: Combine 1/2 cup almond meal, 3/4 cup oats, 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour, 2 tablespoons canola oil, 1/4 teaspoon almond extract, and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Sprinkle over cherry mixture and bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.