“Catch me if you can!” That’s what tart cherries would say if they could talk.
The Montmorency cherry, the most commonly grown variety in the United States and Canada, is also the most studied for its health benefits. Its ruby-red gems have a short three-week harvest season from late June through July. But not to worry: Although you’ll have to watch closely to purchase fresh cherries, the fruit and its juice are available year-round in canned, frozen, dried, and bottled options.
The sweet-sour flavor is a result of the antioxidants found in Montmorency cherries, which are particularly rich in anthocyanins, quercetin, and melatonin. A study conducted by Boston University researchers found that cherry intake is associated with a lower risk of gout attacks, while another analysis published in the European Journal of Nutrition determined that consumption of tart cherry juice improved both sleep duration and quality.
According to researchers at Oregon Health and Science University, tart cherry juice reduces inflammation markers and is particularly beneficial in managing osteoarthritis pain at levels similar to common pain medications, without the possible side effects often associated with them. Tart cherries have the highest anti-inflammatory content of any food, they say. Is your mind beginning to wander about feasting on this powerhouse food?
The recipes below include a timesaving sauce that’s not only easy to make, but can also be used in two very different dishes — a luscious main course and a decadent dessert. And, we offer a summer beverage that’s as refreshing as dangling your feet into a swimming pool. But don’t stop there! Enjoy dried cherries at breakfast in oatmeal and granola, at lunch in green salads, or toss a few into a palmful of nuts for an afternoon snack. Frozen cherries are a yummy addition to smoothies as well as sprinkled over a cup of ice cream. Sip a small glass of unsweetened tart cherry juice as-is or dilute with water for a milder taste.
Unsweetened and organic canned, dried, and frozen cherries can be found at health-food stores. It’s worth checking your grocery store health-food section and letting your grocer know what you’re looking for.
Summer, autumn, winter, and spring — cherries are a healthy food all year long!