Friday, September 28, 2012

All About Cherries in India

Cherries are prehistoric fruits, originating in West and North Africa, Europe and parts of Turkey. Today, they’re cultivated all over the world: India is the 26th largest producer of cherries. Turkey, US, and Iran are the top 3 growers of the fruit, respectively.

Cherries of Kashmir
Availability of Cherries in India:
According to Fruitopedia, cherries require high altitudes and colder climates. Not surprisingly, then, that they grow best in Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Himal Pradesh. These regions grow several varieties, in colors of yellowish-pink to dark red.

Farmers are growing cherries in higher volumes as of late thanks to their growing popularity. Furthermore, apple season does not compete with cherry season, allowing for farmers to utilize their land more efficiently.

Where to find Cherries in India:
Cherries will trickle their way down south from the northern parts of India in the late fall/winter months. Most vendors will sell them, and they’re one of the pricier fruits. Don’t expect to find them after the season has subsided, though.

The ones that hit the market in the lower regions are not the big, deep, dark red types that have their ripeness apparent; nor are they the sweet large golden Ranier cherries; though their color is similar. Cherries here are smaller and harder.

Checking for Ripeness in Cherries:
The variety of cherries in India is such that it’s recommended to taste a cherry before buying them. The flesh should be round and free of dark blemishes and mold spots. Sweet cherries give ever-so-slightly to the touch, whereas unripe ones have a taut skin that binds the flesh tightly and gives very little.

Taste of Cherry:
Cherries taste tart with only hint of sweetness, especially the golden red cherries. The flesh is juicy and pungent with the texture resembling a grape’s. Deep red cherries have a milder, less acidic taste than their yellow counterparts. 

Nutritional Value of Cherries:
The nutritional value of cherries per 100g of edible fruit is:

16g carb (12% RDI)
2.1g fiber (8% RDI)
0% RDI of fat
2% RDI of omega 3-fatty acids
1.16 protein (2% RDI)
2% RDI Thiamine/B1
3% RDI Riboflavin/B2
4% RDI Pantothenic Acid/B5
4% RDI B6/Pyridoxine
7 mg Vitamin C (9% RDI)
2.1ug of Vitamin K (2% RDI)
13mg of Calcium (1% RDI)
.1mg of Copper (7% RDI)
.4mg of Iron (2% RDI)
11mg of Magnesium (4% RDI)
.1mg of Manganese (4% RDI)
21mg of Phosphorous (3% RDI)
222mg of Potassium (5% RDI)

Health Benefits of Cherries:
Cherries provide countless health benefits, in part because of their enormous antioxidant content. A Times of India article lauds cherries for the following health reasons:

-The antioxidants in cherries fights free radicals, thereby reducing the risk of cancer, slows signs of ageing and wards off heart disease.
-Cherries lower uric acid
-Externally applied, cherries moistens, tightens and smoothens the skin
-its high potassium and low sodium stabilizes blood pressure
-Clears and reduces gout and arthritis
-The anthocyanins inhibits LDL cholesterol oxidation, which prevents heart problems and strengthens capillaries.
-Cherries are great for athletes on account of their pain-reducing and muscle-building anti-inflammatory properties, according to Oregon Health and Science University researchers.
-Cherries help diabetic patients for the fruit’s ability to control blood glucose levels.
-Portugese researchers found potential in the cherry’s ability to control protect the body from cancer cell growth of the colon and stomach
-When consumed, tart cherries were found by researchers to have the same efficacy at inhibiting certain enzymes as ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory drugs.
-Cherries used to play a strong role in staving off typhoid fever that swept through Europe
-Cherries also assist with weight loss: one study showed mice that consumed tart cherry powder before high-fat meals did not put on the same weight as mice put on a similar diet sans cherry powder. The blood of the cherry-consuming mice was also less inclined to develop heart disease, diabetes and high cholesterol.
Northwest Cherry Growers ad on cherries

How to open/cut:
If for commercial purposes, cherries are mechanically separated from its pit via machine. People open cherries most often by biting the whole fruit and spitting the pit. The small size of the fruit relative to the pit makes manually removing the flesh quite laborious.

Cherry Recipe Ideas:
Cherries work well in the following:
-Juice: cumbersome to make thanks to the pit, but can be achieved
-Reduction sauce: chefs will delight in the cherry’s ability to create a sweet, sticky glaze as well
-Salads: If de-pitted, cherries are great with walnuts, grapes, apricots, apples, and other continental fruits
-Cous cous and rice dishes: cherries are a lovely addition to biryanis, middle eastern couscous, and even stuffed mushroom or stuffed pumpkin meals. The tanginess of the cherry counterbalances earthy flavors found in these vegetables and grains.
-Beverages such as cherry limeade, cherry sparking soda and even a cherry martini are delectable upscale drinks
-Desserts: cherries make for lovely tarts, pies, muffins and sweet breads. Use as you would for apples or apricots.
-Compote: because cherry season is so short, a great way to preserve them for use year-round is through canning. Compotes and jams are simple solutions for having these fruits on-hand for all seasons. Use on toast, ice cream (vegan of course), pancakes, waffles and crepes.

Personal Experience:
Cherries are delicious, but they are also a strong diuretic. It’s advisable to limit your consumption to a handful… instead of a kg, an amount I commonly eat in one sitting when the fruit’s available.

I live in the south, and have been disappointed by the quality of cherries in India. They might be better in the north of India; the ones here tend to be either underripe or far too tart for my liking. The cherries in India I’ve tasted provide none of the sweet juiciness as the ones I find in Europe or in the Pacific Northwest regions of the US.

Random fact:
Himachal Pradesh grows a variety called “Black Republican,” which I believe is a myth in horticulture as much as it is in politics.


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