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A Story of CrackSense Fruits: All About Sweet Cherries

The delicious flavour of sweet cherries has been their most recognisable characteristic for centuries, alongside ruby-red colour. The diverse varieties of sweet cherries, each boasting unique characteristics, have been cherished for their health benefits and sweetness. Explore more about the world of tasty sweet cherries, their history, different varieties, health benefits and a challenge that lies amidst their sweetness: fruit cracking. Yet, innovative projects like CrackSense aim to find the solutions and promise a fruitful future for this beloved fruit.

Origins and History of Sweet Cherries

The precise origin of sweet cherries remains unknown, but they are believed to have originated in Western Asia, particularly in Anatolia, also known as Asia Minor. Thriving in the fertile regions between the Black and Caspian seas, sweet cherries likely spread to Europe with the help of animals and birds, facilitating their widespread distribution.

The Greeks were the first to grow cherries, as noted in a book written in the third century B.C. called The History of Plants. It mentions that cherries were known to the Greeks and cultivated by them for hundreds of years.  Following their lead, the Romans further expanded cherry cultivation.

Today, wild cherries can be found growing naturally in Europe, Asia, and the U.S., while others are intentionally grown on farms, often to meet the specific preferences of candy manufacturers. In more than 27 EU countries, around 550 thousand tons of cherries are produced every year, while the largest non-EU cherry supplier of sweet cherries is Turkey, with a production of around 847 thousand metric tons annually.

Components and Health Benefits of Sweet Cherries

Sweet cherries are tasty and packed with important nutrients and beneficial compounds. They have a lot of plant-based substances, especially phenols, which are good for health. However, the amount can vary between different types of cherries.

Cherries offer more than just vitamins, minerals, and fibre. They also have special compounds that could help prevent health issues. Sweet cherries offer antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic properties, along with potential benefits for preventing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Considering its significant potential in addressing health concerns, consuming sweet cherries regularly is recommended. Furthermore, their lower glycemic index makes them a preferable choice compared to other fruits like apricots, grapes, peaches, and blueberries.

Varieties of Sweet Cherries

Sweet cherries come in numerous varieties. In general, darker cherries tend to have a more intense flavour. Each variety has its own unique taste, and they also ripen at slightly different times throughout the summer, enabling growers in different regions to harvest cherries continuously.

  • Bing Cherries, ranging from deep red to rich mahogany when ripe, are firm, juicy, and large. They are intensely sweet with a vibrant aftertaste and have a distinctive heart shape. Bing cherries are the leading commercial sweet cherries and are usually the first to arrive in national markets.
  • Chelan Cherries, otherwise known as “black cherries”, are round, firm in texture and mild in taste, much like Bing cherries. They share a deep mahogany colour and sweet flavour with Bing cherries but are less susceptible to rain cracking, giving them a longer shelf life.
  • Lapins Cherries can grow to one inch in size and have a deep red colour. Ripening approximately two weeks after Bing cherries, this variety is only available for a brief period of a few weeks.
  • Rainier Cherries, industry favourites, are yellow with a hint of red blush. They have a sweet, mildly tart flavour and ripen after Bing cherries in June, often available locally until August.
  • Tulare Cherries, slightly tangier than other sweet cherries, share the dark red appearance of Bing and Chelan varieties. Ideal for those who enjoy a tangy finish, these cherries are grown in California and ripen about a week earlier than Bing cherries.
  • Lambert Cherries are large and uniformly bright red. They’re sweet enough to enjoy fresh or ideal for baking since they hold their texture when cooked. These cherries are available from mid-June to early August, spanning most of the summer season.
Red cherries in bowl on white wooden background on blue towel. Berry healthy snack
Source: freepik.com

Tips for Consuming More Sweet Cherries

There are many ways to enjoy sweet cherries while taking advantage of their nutrients and potential benefits.

  • Nothing is better than eating fresh sweet cherries and enjoying the taste of this delicious fruit.
  • Frozen or fresh, they are a very good addition to peanut butter toast, chia pudding, oatmeal, cereal, or yoghurt.
  • One of the solutions is making fresh cherry juice, but also you can add sweet cherries to your smoothies or sparkling water for better flavour. 

This fruit is a sweet addition to your favourite cakes. As a topping or a part of the filling, sweet cherries can make your favourite desserts even more delicious.

Addressing the phenomenon of fruit cracking

Despite their sweetness and juiciness, people do not want to eat spoiled or cracked cherries. Their delicious taste may be lost due to increased exposure to air and moisture. Moreover, cracks can become entry points for bacteria, moulds, and other pathogens, which could be the cause of some illnesses. However, beyond consumer preferences, fruit cracking is a significant challenge for farmers, reducing fruit marketability and impacting yields.

Sweet cherry trees, their fruit buds and their blossoms can be damaged by frost, while the fruit itself is vulnerable to cracking when it rains. CrackSense is a Horizon Europe project that aims to address fruit cracking, focusing on real-time monitoring and prediction by utilising and upscaling sensing and digital data technologies. The project will offer solutions for fruit cracking mostly focusing on cherries, citruses, pomegranates and table grapes.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the story of sweet cherries is a tale of rich history, irresistible flavours, and ongoing innovation. From their mysterious origins in Western Asia to their widespread across the whole world, cherries have left a significant mark. With numerous varieties offering unique tastes and textures, cherries continue to be the sweetest part of people’s days and meals. However, there is a challenge that sweet cherries face: fruit cracking. This concerns both farmers and consumers. Yet, with projects like CrackSense, the future of sweet cherry cultivation looks promising. As we navigate the complexities of modern agriculture, let us continue to cherish the precious sweet cherry and enjoy its rich flavours.

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