The signs of summer are here; daylight saving, longer and warmer days and the multi-coloured ranks of fruit at supermarkets.
Many of us relish the chance to stain our lips red with the first cherries of the season but there's more to enjoying the jewel-bright fruit than simply chomping the flesh and spitting out the seeds.
They're packed with phytonutrients, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes, as well as help alleviate the symptoms of arthritis and gout.
Cherries are also packed with vitamin C and contain only 250 kilojoules per 100g of fruit, so they make a healthy as well as low-calorie snack.
It is best to store them dry in a covered container in the fridge. Keep the stems on to help keep the fruit fresher for longer and wash them only just before eating as cherries can absorb the water causing the fruit to soften.
If you have bought a huge bag of cherries (or even a box) and now find the idea of just one more ripe red globe a little too much, remember cherries can also be delicious with muesli at breakfast or baked into a healthy muffin for a mid-morning snack.
CHERRY BIRCHER MUESLI
1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and sliced
1 cup low-fat natural yoghurt
1/4 cup of slivered almonds
1 tsp of sunflower seeds
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup sultanas
1 cup reduced-fat milk or soy milk
Mix oats, sunflower seeds, sultanas and slivered almonds in a bowl. Cover mixture in milk and soak overnight. The next morning, add yoghurt and cherries. Sprinkle cinnamon to taste.
HEALTHY CHERRY MUFFINS
2 cups fresh cherries, finely chopped.
1 cup unprocessed wheat bran or oat bran
1 & 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 & 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon powder
3/4 cup low-fat milk (or soy milk)
1/2 cup honey
1 large egg
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp cherry juice concentrate
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Lightly coat muffin tray with cooking oil spray.
In a medium bowl, combine bran, flour, baking soda and cinnamon. Set aside.
In another medium bowl or in a blender, combine milk, honey, egg, oil and vanilla extract until smooth.
Mix dry ingredients with liquid mixture.
Stir just until combined. Add cherries and pecans and stir.
Spoon mixture into muffin tray. Bake for 13 minutes or until golden brown.
Let the muffins cool for 10 minutes before removing from tray. Serve warm or cool.