CELEBRATE CHERRIES

BowloCherriesFebruary is National Cherry Month! There are two types of cherries produced in the United States; sweet cherries and tart cherries.  Washington, Michigan, California, and Oregon are the four main sweet cherry producing states.  Michigan also has over 90 percent of the tart cherry production!  Interestingly enough the United States ranks second in the world when it comes to cherry production.  Turkey comes in first, with the United States second, and Iran at a close third.

There are a variety of ways that people enjoy cherries.  In America, the majority of tart cherries are used for processing.  They are great for making pies, cakes, and fillings of all kinds.  Tart cherries have a very sour flavor, as you can imagine from their name, and are therefore not usually eaten raw. Sweet cherries on the other hand have many ways of being enjoyed.  They are often sold by the pound in grocery stores and can just be eaten raw.  Sweet cherries can also be dried, or canned as a way to preserve them.  One major difference in sweet cherries and tart cherries is their sugar content.  Sweet cherries can also be used in some types of wines and juices.

While cherries have always been popular, recently cherry consumption has grown.  In the last few years the health benefits of cherries has been a main focus that has undoubtedly helped to boost their popularity. Cherries are a great source of antioxidants which help to lower risks of cancer and heart disease.  They also are rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E.  Another cool fact is that cherries are known as a brain food, meaning that they aid in brain health and memory loss prevention. Along with brain health, cherries are proven to have some anti-inflammatory benefits which make them a great snack after a workout to help reduce muscle and joint soreness.

The cherry industry has also been a great source of ag-tourism. “You- pick” cherry orchards are very popular in some states like Michigan and Wisconsin.  A typical you-pick cherry orchard allows guests to walk through the orchard, pick the amount of cherries they want, and pay by weight on the way out.  Every year, Traverse City Michigan holds the National Cherry Festival.  With Michigan being a leading producer, it seems like a great place for it to be held!

Thanks to the National Cherry Festival for this great recipe on Classic Cherry Pie!

cherry pieIngredients:

1 package refrigerated pie crust for 9-inch pie
2 (20 or 21 ounce) cans cherry pie filling
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Directions:

Line a 9-inch pie pan with pie crust. Trim crust along pan edge. Pour cherry pie filling evenly into crust. Sprinkle with almond extract, if desired.

Place second crust over filling. Wrap excess top crust under bottom crust. Press edges together with a fork. With a knife, cut slits in top crust.

Bake in preheated 400-degree oven 35 to 40 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Cover edge of crust with strips of foil, if needed, to prevent overbrowning.

Note: If desired, 1 cup of dried cherries can be mixed with the cherry filling before baking for added cherry flavor.

Makes 6 to 8

Leslie AnnisLeslie Annis
Illinois State University Student