Red is a color everyone thinks of during the month of February. With Valentine’s Day during the first half of the month — and February designated as heart health month — we all have hearts on our minds.

Try adding to your heart health by eating some red fruits and vegetables this month. There are so many to choose from: beets, red onion, apples, strawberries, radishes, watermelon, cranberries, rhubarb and cabbage to name a few. Red fruits and vegetables have antioxidants such as lycopene and anthocyanin that help fight heart disease and decrease the risk for stroke.

This month, Food Hero Harvest of the Month is highlighting cherries. Cherries contain antioxidants, which help strengthen our immune system and protect against disease. They have lots of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and magnesium which are beneficial for your heart.

Cherries are something you can find locally in the summer months of June and July. We have local u-picks in various parts of the county. If you are lucky enough to have picked and frozen or canned some of these beautiful red fruits, try using them to make a valentines breakfast of cherry puff pancakes or cherry scones.

Even if you don’t have extras left from this summer. You can find cherries frozen, canned and dried year round. Both recipes, which are included, work with multiple forms of cherries, so you can use the type that works the best for you.

There are two types of cherries. Sweet cherries have a firm texture and sweet flavored, coming in a variety of colors, from dark red to yellow with a red blush. Enjoy them fresh from June through August.

Sour or tart cherries are smaller in size with soft, juicy flesh and a bright red color. Available fresh in June or July, they are usually cooked or dried with added sweeteners.

Some might find the pit of a cherry a hassle to eating this healthy, tasty fruit, but trying one of these techniques to pit cherries might help.

  • Using a paring knife, cut each cherry in half and remove the pit.
  • Use a sturdy straw, chopstick or skewer to push the pit through the cherry from the stem end, which can be done over a glass bottle with a pit size opening.
  • Insert the loop of a partly opened paper clip through the stem end and under the pit. Pop the pit back out the top.

All the above information came from the Food Hero Cherries Monthly Magazine.

Eat lots of red fruit and vegetables for February to celebrate Valentine’s Day and a healthy heart. You can even do this with cherries for a healthy dessert like cherry oat crumble. Here is to a month full of heart healthy foods.

Mandy Hatfield is the Nutrition Education Program Senior Instructor for OSU Extension Service of Douglas County. Mandy can be reached by e-mail mandy.hatfield@oregonstate.edu or phone at 541-236-3017.

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