Dried and unsweetened tart cherries, also called dwarf cherries, are available year-round and can be purchased as a raw product. In contrast to sweet cherries (wild cherries), tart cherries are famous for their classic tart flavor. Tart cherries are a good source of several minerals, folic acid, and the substance melatonin. The latter is a natural hormone that plays a role in regulating our circadian rhythms and sleep. The Montmorency cherry is the most popular type of tart cherry and the variety that is most commonly used for baking, for example, in Black Forest Cake.
Thanks to their fruity, tart flavor, dried tart cherries are a nice addition to a wide variety of sweet dishes, desserts (e.g., cakes, muffins, and other baked goods), and breakfast cereals, and they work well as a snack or a topping for your favorite ice cream. As a dried fruit, most grocery stores carry them year-round.
From Wikipedia: Dried sour cherries are used in cooking including soups, pork dishes, cakes, tarts, and pies. Sour cherries or sour cherry syrup are used in liqueurs and drinks. In Turkey, Greece and Cyprus, sour cherries are especially prized for making spoon sweets by slowly boiling pitted sour cherries and sugar; the syrup thereof is used for vişne şurubu or vyssináda, a beverage made by diluting the syrup with ice-cold water. A particular use of sour cherries is in the production of kriek lambic, a cherry-flavored variety of a naturally fermented beer made in Belgium.1
The dried variety of tart cherries are available as a raw product. Raw dried cherries are natural and gently dehydrated. Make sure that the product you buy doesn’t contain any additives, sulfur dioxide (more under “Information about dried fruit and sulfur dioxide”), or preservatives.
Information about dried fruit and sulfur dioxide:
Treating dried fruit with sulfur dioxide has two distinct advantages for large-scale industrial producers. First, the sulfur dioxide layer helps to prevent spoiling as it inhibits the metabolism of many microorganisms and in this way increases the shelf life of the product. And second, it allows the fruit to maintain its original color. The latter occurs thanks to the fact that sulfur dioxide inhibits enzymes that promote oxidation. This makes the fruit look more attractive for consumers, but in general we advise against purchasing and consuming dried fruit that has been treated. The preservation process destroys several vitamins, such as folic acid, and sulfur dioxide can be harmful for people with asthma or allergies.
Tart cherries contain the vitamins A, B1, B2, C, and E, as well as significant amounts of potassium and folic acid. In addition, tart cherries are a good source of anthocyanins.2
On average, tart cherries contain about 83–85 % water, 0.9 % raw protein, and 0.5 % minerals.3 The most important trace elements are iron, boron, copper, manganese, and zinc.4 ...
The nutritional benefits of tart cherries are in large part on account of the phenolic substances they contain. ... The following gives an overview of the positive health effects of plant polyphenols:
- antioxidant effects (scavenger for free radicals and aggressive oxygen radicals), reduces the carcinogenous effects of nitrous compounds, antihistamine effects, reduces the ability of carcinogenic substances to cause mutations, protects blood vessels, and supports the effect of vitamin C.
- Reiter and Tan5 showed that tart cherries contain significant levels of melatonin. Melatonin regulates our sleep-wake cycle. The hormone is produced from serotonin in the pineal gland — a small endocrine gland in the vertebrate brain. Taking melatonin is a natural method for improving sleep. As we age, the production of melatonin in our body decreases. Researchers correctly hypothesized that even eating small amounts of cherries can increase the melatonin levels in our blood (Brown, 2001).5
Prunus cerasus (sour cherry, tart cherry, or dwarf cherry) is a species of Prunus in the subgenus Cerasus (cherries), native to much of Europe and southwest Asia. It is closely related to the sweet cherry (Prunus avium), but has a fruit that is more acidic.
The tree is smaller than the sweet cherry (growing to a height of 4–10 m), has twiggy branches, and its crimson-to-near-black cherries are borne upon shorter stalks. There are several varieties of the sour cherry: the dark-red morello cherry and the lighter-red varieties including the amarelle cherry, and the popular Montmorency cherry. The Montmorency cherry is the most popular type of sour cherry. The reason for its popularity is its use in baking and recipe creation, including cherry pies, cherry desserts and other cherry-based recipes.1
Literature / Sources:
- Wikipedia. Prunus cerasus, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Prunus_cerasus
- Wikipedia. Sauerkirsche, de.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Sauerkirsche
- Herrmann, K. Inhaltsstoffe von Obst und Gemüse. Verlag Eugen Ulmer, 2001, Stuttgart. S. 26 – 27
- Will, F., Hilsendegen, P., Bonerz, D., Patz, C.-D., Dietrich, H. (2005) Analytical composition of fruit juices from different sour cherry cultivars. Journal of Applied Botany and Food Quality 79. S. 12 –16
- Brown, G. Researcher says tart cherries rich in melatonin. The Fruit Growers News, February 2001, 40. Jahrg., Heft 2. S. 40