Did you know Northern Michigan, or commonly called the Traverse Bay Farms region, grows over 70% of all of the Montmorency tart cherries in the United States?
This rural farming region is located in the Northwestern region of the lower peninsula of Michigan. It is surrounded by rolling hills, countless lakes and rivers and is fast becoming one of the desired places to live in the Midwest. Check out this video of northern Michigan and cherry orchards.
The Montmorency Cherry
The Montmorency tart cherry (Prunus cerasus) is a variety of tart cherry that is believed to have originated in the Montmorency region of France. The exact history of the Montmorency tart cherry is not well-documented, but it is believed to have been cultivated for centuries in the region. The Montmorency tart cherry is known for its bright red color and tangy, sour taste.
Montmorency cherries have been used in traditional European medicine for centuries to treat a variety of health conditions, such as gout and rheumatism.
In fact, Roman legions used this fruit to help fight joint and muscle pain from their many conquests in to Asia Minor. Since the days of antiquity, the fruit have also been used to make cherry juice, cherry capsules, jams, jellies, and other preserves.
In the United States, Montmorency tart cherries are mainly grown in the states of Michigan, New York, and Utah. In recent years, Montmorency tart cherry juice and supplements have become popular as a natural remedy for gout, arthritis, insomnia, and muscle soreness. The fruit and its derivatives have gained popularity in recent years with the rise of interest in natural remedies and functional foods.
It's worth to note that the Montmorency tart cherry is not the only variety of tart cherry, other varieties are grown as well, like the Evans and Balaton. However, most of the published research on the health benefits of this ruby red fruit has been conducted on the Montmorency variety.
When are Cherries Harvested?
Cherries are typically harvested between late May and mid-August, depending on the variety and location. The specific harvest time will also depend on the weather conditions, as well as the maturity of the fruit.
For example, in the northern hemisphere, sweet cherries such as Bing, Rainier, and Van are harvested in June, while tart cherries like Montmorency, in Michigan, are harvested in July. In the southern hemisphere, the harvest season is reversed, with sweet cherries harvested in December, and tart cherries harvested in January.
The cherry harvest is often done by hand, with farm workers picking the fruit at the peak of ripeness. Some cherry varieties are harvested using mechanical shakers that shake the tree branches to release the fruit.
Here is a video on how they are harvested in Michigan:
It's important to note that cherries are a delicate fruit, and must be handled with care to avoid bruising. They are also highly perishable, and must be refrigerated or processed soon after harvest to preserve their quality.
What are the Health Benefits of Cherries?
Know that we have know this history, let's learn more about the health benefits of cherries.
Cherry Juice and Arthritis
Studies have found that consuming cherry juice or cherry capsules may help reduce inflammation and pain associated with arthritis. This is thought to be due to the high levels of antioxidants, including anthocyanins, in cherries. These naturally occurring compounds are a group of flavonoids that give cherries their red color.
These compounds are powerful antioxidants that can help to reduce inflammation, protect cells from damage, and improve overall health.
Anthocyanins in cherries have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which may help to reduce pain and inflammation associated with conditions such as arthritis.
They also have antioxidant properties, which can help to neutralize free radicals and protect cells from damage, which may reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
Additionally, studies have shown that anthocyanins in cherries may have potential benefits for brain health, cardiovascular health, and even weight management.
One study found that consuming tart cherry juice twice daily for six weeks reduced inflammation and pain in adults with osteoarthritis. Another study found that supplementing with cherry capsules reduced pain in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis.
Cherry Juice and Gout
Cherry juice has been suggested to have potential benefits for individuals with gout, a type of arthritis caused by high levels of uric acid in the blood. Gout attacks are often triggered by foods high in purines, which are broken down into uric acid in the body.
Some studies have found that consuming cherry juice or cherry supplements may help reduce the frequency and severity of gout attacks. This is thought to be due to the high levels of antioxidants, including anthocyanins, in cherries which can help to reduce inflammation and lower uric acid levels in the body.
Cherry Juice and Sleep
Cherry juice, particularly tart cherry juice, has been studied for its potential effects on sleep. Tart cherries contain high levels of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the body's sleep-wake cycle. Some studies have found that consuming tart cherry juice may help to improve sleep quality, increase the duration of sleep, and reduce symptoms of insomnia.
One study found that adults who consumed tart cherry juice for two weeks had significantly higher levels of melatonin in their bloodstream and reported better sleep quality. Another study found that drinking tart cherry juice for one-week improved sleep duration and quality in older adults with insomnia.Cherries for Reducing Muscle Soreness
Cherries, particularly tart cherries, have been studied for their potential benefits in reducing muscle soreness and recovery time after exercise. This is thought to be due to the high levels of antioxidants, including anthocyanins, in cherries which can help to reduce inflammation.
Some studies have found that consuming tart cherry juice or supplements before and after intense exercise can reduce muscle soreness and inflammation. One study found that drinking tart cherry juice for a week before and after a long-distance running race reduced muscle pain by up to 28%.
Another study found that consuming tart cherry powder reduced muscle soreness and inflammation following intense strength training.