Cherries: Savoury ways to enjoy them

21 Jul 2023

Cherries are one of the most popular stone fruits and for a good reason. Their season is fleeting, yet they have pleased food lovers for centuries, embodying cherished memories of warm afternoons. But they are more than sweet treats...

In a Nutshell

Save it on Pinterest or download here.

Plant Tales

A wildlife wonderland: Cherry trees are integral to ecosystems. They offer early nectar for bees and food for various animals like blackbirds and song thrushes.

Origin story: They are native to western Asia and Eastern Europe from the Caspian Sea to the Balkans and have been enjoyed for thousands of years. It is said that the Roman General Lucullus introduced the first cherry trees to Rome around 74 BC.

Cherry fever: After centuries of small-scale cultivation, cherries are in high demand due to greater resistance to environmental factors and purported health-promoting properties. In traditional medicine, they have been used for easing the pain of arthritis and gout.

A recurring theme in Art: Flemish painter Osias Beert portrayed cherries as representations of the human soul, as they are often considered to be fruits of Paradise. In the 1866 French song ‘Le Temps des cerises’, they symbolise a period of joy in a time of political and social upheaval. And the Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa evokes a sense of community and togetherness:

In the cherry blossom’s shade

there’s no such thing

as a stranger.

― Kobayashi Issa

Human Health

Cherry fruits contain many bioactive compounds, such as:

  • Flavonoids, mainly anthocyanins, kaempferol and quercetin
  • Melatonin, especially in sour/tart cherries
  • Phenolic acids
  • Vitamin C and potassium

Why so red? The deep red colour of the fruit is due to the accumulation of anthocyanins during ripening. They add a red touch to your plate and diversify the types of phytochemicals you eat.

Sweet vs sour cherries: The sour cherry taste comes from higher levels of organic acids. Sour and sweet cherries also have different antioxidant capacities related to their phytochemical composition. (Sokół-Łętowska et al. 2020)

Cherries were associated with various health benefits:

  • Exercise recovery: Tart cherries showed a beneficial effect on recovery following exercise in a systematic review of randomised controlled trials.
  • Cardiovascular health: Supplementing cherry juice was associated with improved blood pressure in a systematic review.
  • Improving cognitive function: Cherry juice supplementation was suggested to improve psychomotor speed in a meta-analysis. However, this finding was limited by the small number of studies.
  • Improving sleep: Consumption of a tart cherry juice concentrate improved sleep duration and quality in 3 small human studies.

Cherry quest continues: To date, most research focused on supplementing with high doses of sour cherries. Investigations continue to translate these findings to whole cherries as part of our diet.

The Flavour Lab

Around the world

  • French Clafoutis aux cerises – enveloped in an egg-rich batter.
  • Hungarian Meggyleves – a cold cherry soup along with sour cream, sugar and spices like cinnamon.
  • Austrian Cherry Strudel – a pastry filled with cherries, sugar and cake crumbs or ground nuts.
  • British Cherry Bakewell Tart – made with a layer of cherry jam and an almond frangipane filling.
  • Spanish Cherry Gazpacho – thrown into the classic mix of tomatoes, peppers, onion and garlic.

More than dessert: 5 savoury ways to enjoy cherries

  1. In salads, topped on mixed greens, cooked lentils or grains, flaked almonds, goat’s cheese, fresh herbs and a vinaigrette.
  2. Roasted with olive oil, sea salt and black pepper and added to summer salads and side dishes.
  3. Salsa-style with red onions or shallots, jalapenos, coriander, lime juice, salt and black pepper.
  4. Toasts and savoury tarts with creamy goat’s cheese or ricotta, fresh thyme and chopped nuts.
  5. Pickled to preserve them for the year.

Recipes to try

Dive Deeper

History & Environment: Woodland trust – Britannica – Mayta-Apaza et al. 2018

Health & composition: Sokół-Łętowska et al. 2020 – Kelley et al. 2018 – Kimble et al. 2023 – Kimble et al. 2022 – Wang et al. 2023 – Wang et al. 2021 – Howatson et al. 2012 – Chung et al. 2022 – Chai et al. 2019



Free 7 day meal plan

Sign up to our newsletter and receive a free copy of our breakfast, lunch and dinner plan to kick start your healthy eating.