Sweet cherries, these gems of nature, make a delicious summer snack. Nutritionally speaking, their benefits are well valued: good source of the antioxidant vitamin C, potassium and fiber, low in fat, and are sodium and cholesterol free. Cherries come in sweet and sour types. The sours, too tart to eat raw, are generally canned with sugar for pie filling. As for chemical- drenched maraschino cherries-‘well, let’s not go there. But sweet cherries are another matter. Luscious and juicy, they make the perfect snack. The best-known sweet is the Bing, large and deep-red. Others include the Rainier, a creamy yellow cherry with a red blush, the dark-red Lambert and the large, firm Lapins. Fresh cherry season runs through mid-August at the latest (depending on the variety), but dried cherries are a year-round treat. In the U.S., cherries grow best in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Montana. Cherries can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three to seven days. Specific phytochemicals in the red group that are being studied for their health-promoting properties include lycopene and anthocyanins. Cherries belong in that group and can help protect a healthy heart, shield against Alzheimer’s and maintain memory function, lower the risk of some cancers, make insulin more effective for blood sugar control, slow the aging process, end insomnia, relieve symptoms of osteoarthritis and gout and maintain urinary tract health. Scientists studying the link between diet and disease often look for a marker in the blood called C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is produced by the body in response to acute inflammation like that experienced by arthritis sufferers. Researchers at the Western Human Nutrition Research Center asked volunteers to eat a bowl of 45 fresh Bing cherries and then measured their levels of CRP. After three hours, the level of CRP in the volunteers’ blood decreased. Of course, you’re not going to eat 45 cherries in one sitting, but maybe cherries should be incorporated in your diet a couple times a week. Fresh Cherry Jubilee cup sugar 1 tablespoon cornstarch cup each water and orange juice 3 cups pitted sweet cherries teaspoon grated orange peel 1 quart vanilla ice cream Combine sugar and cornstarch. Blend in water and orange juice. Cook and stir until thickened and smooth. Add cherries and orange peel; return to boil and simmer 10 minutes. Serve over ice cream. Next week: Peaches Facts in these articles are obtained from medical and clinical journals, scientific publications, and published tradebooks. These articles have been written and published strictly for information purposes. For any questions contact Susan at trijrsL@msn.com or www.fruitandveggienurse.com.