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Washington State Cherries
My Sweet Day Picking Cherries

I love cherries! So when I traveled to Washington State this July, I was excited to see Washington’s famous cherry trees. The friend that I was staying with suggested that we visit a “pick your own” cherry orchard. It sounded like a much more fun way to get cherries than my usual routine of a trip to the produce aisle. The day was beautiful, the experience was a blast and the ripe, fresh cherries blew the grocery store variety out of the water. And I learned that cherries are a certified super food, providing nutrients that help with everything from cancer prevention to better sleep!

After a Friday night cookout, my friend, Sarah, told me about Ray French Orchards in her hometown of Richland, WA. She told me that we were right in the middle of cherry season, which takes place June-August, and that she visited with her family every year to pick sweet, juicy cherries right from the trees.

The next morning we arrived at the orchard, immediately in awe of the bright red cherries nestled against the crisp blue sky, and made our way to the farm stand to get our buckets. As we walked into the orchard my friend gave me the scoop on picking your own cherries. She told me that I should be sure to look for ripe cherries, as you pay by weight. Cherries should be fully red or mahogany colored, not light pink. She also told me (and reminded the kids) that we should never gather cherries off of the ground because they carry the risk of E coli contamination. Just then, her young son piped up. “Tell her about the snakes!” Um, excuse me? Luckily, my friend explained, the snakes sometimes found in the orchard (bull and garter) are harmless and tend to stay away when the orchard is packed with fruit seekers. Luckier still, we didn’t see any! Once our buckets were full we headed back to the farm stand to pay. We emptied our buckets into bags that we brought from home and started toward the car, happily tired after a day of picking. On the way I grabbed a brochure about the health benefits of cherries, curious to know what cherries had to offer beyond their low-calorie status.

Suffice it to say, I was fascinated by what I read. Cherries are more than just healthy; they’re nutritional powerhouses! Cherries contain:

  • Iron, which aids in the formation of red blood cells and provides oxygen to blood cells
  • Anthocyanins, antioxidants that reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, fight inflammation (making them great for runners like me) and promote neurological health
  • Beta carotene, also an antioxidant that reduces cancer risk, boosts the immune system, and helps to reduce the risk of certain eye disorders, including night blindness
  • Folate, which is essential for fetal development in pregnant women and also promotes heart health, neurological health and the formation of red blood cells
  • Fiber, a blood pressure and digestive system regulator that may aid weight loss efforts
  • Melatonin, a natural way to regulate sleep cycles and heart rhythm, making cherries a great late night snack
  • Potassium, which aids in stroke prevention, anxiety relief and blood pressure regulation
  • Plus many other vitamins and minerals including antioxidant vitamins C and E

Before I packed my bags, my friend and I sat out on her porch admiring the clear Washington night sky and its many stars. As we snacked on fresh cherries, we talked about what a great day we had had. Knowing that I could never go back to store-bought, I asked my friend if there was a way to get Washington State cherries shipped to me year-round. She told me about Pacific Health, based in Bellingham, WA, and their amazing dried cherries and fruit and nut mixes. She wrote down their website and told me that she orders from them all the time. She sent me out the door with the Nuts over Bings Mix, chock full of delicious dried Bing cherries mixed with pistachios, cashews, and almonds. Even better, they contain no added sugar, unlike many dried fruits you find in stores. They were so satisfying that as soon as I returned home I ordered five bags!

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