THIS summer, cherry farmers are producing record-breaking bumper crops of quality fruit.
With fruit and veg stores and supermarket prices falling as low $7 a kilo, the annual cherry gluttony festival is set to last well after Christmas.
What's more, this rich, red 'superfruit' has serious health and beauty benefits.
Amongst the key findings in the 2010 Australian Cherry Report, compared to other berries, cherries are the richest source of certain anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant responsible for the deep red colour that has been linked to a variety of health benefits.
Antioxidants which protect cells from free-radicals -- unstable molecules that are generated when we engage in everyday activities, such as eating, breathing and exercising, as well as when we're exposed to pollution, cigarette smoke and the sun's ultraviolet rays.
Studies show that maintaining a high antioxidant defence system lowers a person's risk of cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, helps protect against certain cancers and helps slow the ageing process.
So while cherries are so cheap, sweet and plentiful, best top up your antioxidant levels.
Merry cherry benefits
Fresh cherries appear to not only retain more of their nutrients than processed cherries, they also provide a unique combination of phytonutrients in one package that work together to deliver health benefits not available in antioxidant supplements or pills.
According to a new study from the University of Michigan, the unique compounds in sour cherries may work together to deliver a powerful 'cocktail' of antioxidants.
Cherries have only 250 kilojoules (60 calories) per 100 grams and contain virtually no fat or cholesterol.
Research suggests that 1-2 cups daily - particularly of sour cherries - may help provide some of the health benefits identified.
Emerging studies show fresh cherries are a rich source of certain antioxidants and contain other phytonutrients - plant pigments that have been linked to a variety of health promoting benefits including anti-inflammatory and anti-obesity effects.
Emerging research suggest that anti-inflammatory components in cherries may promote the repair of muscles that have been damaged by exercise.
This effect has been attributed to specific anthocyanins shown to relieve muscle pain and joint soreness associated with inflammation.
Eating foods rich in antioxidant-rich fresh cherries may help to reduce and neutralise free radicals and slow the signs of skin ageing.
Free radicals are believed to be a major contributing factor in the production of fine lines and wrinkles by destroying the collagen and elastin network which keeps skin supple and firm.
The cherry season comes but once a year.
Extend this season's bumper season with this chutney recipe.
3 cups pitted and fresh cherries
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup chopped onions
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup raisins
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon each ground allspice, ground
cloves, ground nutmeg
Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, one hour.
Uncover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 30 minutes more.
Remove from heat and let cool at room temperature.
Keep refrigerated until ready to use.
Delicious with grilled chicken breasts or roast pork. Makes about 3 cups.
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