Why you should consider the tart cherry.
It's hard not to be overwhelmed by health fads-every other minute some new detox or diet appears in magazines, blogs, and government PSAs. Many times, a company capitalizes on the new research and the entire health hemisphere is whipped into a frenzy-remember POM Wonderful-the pomegranate based company, or the acai berry craze? I have nothing against either fruit, they do have fantastic health benefits, but for people on the East Coast, those fruits aren't local, they can be incredibly pricey, and the carbon footprint on them is mind-boggling.
I would suggest that you substitute tart cherries for the tropical fruits. If you have escaped the tidal wave of information about tart cherries in the last 3 years, you impress me. It seems like every month a new piece of information on the nutritional qualities of tart cherries is published-so hats off to the tart cherry industry-you are doing work.
Adams County natives have always relied on tart cherries as staples for classic pies, jams, and beverages. Sadly, with the advent of processed foods, many Americans across the country lack the know-how to preserve their own fruits and vegetables thus making produce like tart cherries, hard for customers to purchase because of their sour taste. It isn't commonly eaten raw like sweet cherries, and if you are going to bake with them, you have to wash and pit them. In a generation that wants instant gratification, why would they bother to add more work into their schedules?
Well, here's why you should bother:
You can find tart cherries (TC) locally on the East Coast. Pennsylvania produces a small amount (3.3 million pounds in 2011) of TC in comparison to Michigan (157.5 mill lbs), the biggest producer of TC in the US, but that still means that your local farmers' market is very likely to have a TC grower. Expect them in early summer, generally mid to late June. As sweet cherries are more widely consumed, many growers sell most of their TC crop to processing plants like Knouse, where they become pie filling. If you know that one of your farmers' market vendors grows TC, call and ask them about ordering ahead and the growing season. If you live in an agricultural area, ask a grower if you can glean from his orchard after harvest. (Always ask first before going into someone's orchard. Would you want an unannounced stranger in your flower bed cutting roses for their person use?)
Besides PA on the East Coast, NY also grows TC, 7.8 million pounds in 2010. If you live in the Midwest, Michigan and Wisconsin are your go to TC states-again, Michigan is firmly in the lead with 135 million pounds grown in 2010. On the West Coast: Oregon, Washington, and Utah are the states to find tart cherries. Now, I am sure you remember the hullabaloo from last year's crazy warm weather and then terrible frosts during spring-it decimated the nation's cherry crop. Michigan had 157.5 million pounds in 2011, and only 5.5 million in 2012. PA went from 3.2 in 2011 to 2.5 million in 2012. The only states that escaped unscathed were the West Coast-they had the best year of their life in terms of cherry sales.
Now for the news that you've been waiting for, the nutritional benefits to consuming TC.
According to the Self.com nutrition data analyzer, TC are "very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Dietary Fiber, Copper, Manganese, and a very good source of Vitamin A and C." Per pitted cup of fruit, you can receive 40% of your DV of vitamin A, 26% of vitamin C, 8% of Potassium, 8% of Copper, and 9% of Selenium. You get 10% of your DV of Dietary Fiber in one cup. The analyzer then scores the fruit based on its nutritional results. The TC was given 4 out of 5 stars for weight loss, 4 out of 5 starts for optimum health, and 2.5 stars out of 5 for weight gain. You should remember that most of the calories (of any fruit) do come from sugars. If you are interested in more info, visit the site yourself!
Furthermore, TC are being touted as possessing the "highest anti-inflammatory content of any food" and has been linked to assisting people suffering from osteoarthritis to manage their pain. Researchers at the American College of Sports Medicine in San Francisco studied 20 women ages 40 to 70 with inflammatory osteoarthritis and found that "drinking tart cherry juice twice daily for three weeks led to significant reductions in important inflammation markers – especially for women who had the highest inflammation levels at the start of the study.
"With millions of Americans looking for ways to naturally manage pain, it's promising that tart cherries can help, without the possible side effects often associated with arthritis medications," said Kerry Kuehl , M.D, Dr.PH., M.S., Oregon Health & Science University, principal study investigator. "I'm intrigued by the potential for a real food to offer such a powerful anti-inflammatory benefit – especially for active adults."
The antioxidants in TC are called anthocyanins and have been compared to well known pain medications in their ability to reduce inflammation. A small study even showed that drinking the juice could "improve the antioxidant defenses of older adults." This is big news for anyone suffering from joint pain, especially athletes, who know that wear and tear on joints can be both excruciating and halt a career. Visit the report here.
If you'd like the comprehensive report on tart cherries go to this website. Click on the Red Report.
If you are leery of reports published by marketing boards-hold the phone. These organizations exist because small and large growers alike need to fund research in our defense. Instead of spending your time on contesting negative media, why not commission scientists to see if what we grow has nutritional worth? That's the thinking behind creating marketing boards, and for me, without the PA Apple Marketing Board and US Apple, the apple industry would not be where it is today. People wouldn't know about the benefits of apples-you'd only hear one side of the story-so please, consider that.
If you still want a second opinion, then you are in luck. Joe Cannon has a Masters in exercise science and a BS in chemistry and biology. He has a blog called the Supplement-Geek where he reviews hype surrounding health issues. After Dr. Oz covered tart cherries, Joe Cannon did his own research. Visit his site for the full she-bang. What I like about this website is his scientific commitment to the truth. Whereas Dr. Oz freely advises millions after small studies are published, Mr. Cannon begins researching. Mr. Cannon freely admits that there is a lot of possibility for TC, but more studies should occur for definitive results. The really interesting part of this particular post, though, is the comment section. Lots of readers wrote in about joint pain and its reduction after taking TC pills or drinking the juice. As a woman behind the stand on many occasions, I can truthfully say that many of customers who suffer from gout drink our tart cherry juice passionately. I cannot speak personally for the sleep aid suggestions, as I fall asleep regularly. But I have spoken to a couple customers who drink a little before bed. I have found that drinking cherry juice can reduce cramps ladies, and that makes it a Gift from God.
So here's what I am taking away from this information, TC are a local fruit that contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties; you get a good dose of vitamin A and C in one cup, it has a decent amount of dietary fiber, it tastes great, and current research shows that its benefits will grow as the number of studies increase.
I eat fries, which have none of the good things listed above-so I feel a lot better physically and mentally when I choose to eat local tart cherries rather than fries, or cherry flavored candy and soda. That alone makes it worthwhile for me to eat.
So if you are interested in adding tart cherries to your diet, raw and in juice form, stop by our stand at any of our farmers' markets in June and pick up a pint or two!