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VOL. 37 | NO. 30 | Friday, July 26, 2013

Arthritis pain? Eat some cherries

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One of the most beautiful signs of spring is the flowering cherry tree, promising succulent fruit in about two months. The only thing better is two months later being able to enjoy the succulent fruit.

Now, according to recent research, there are more reasons to love this tree and the fruit it produces.

Science-based research shows cherries pack a health-promoting punch. Ruby-red tart cherries are bursting with antioxidants that relieve the pain of arthritis and gout and might help prevent cancer and heart disease.

Not only do fresh, red cherries taste great, some doctors say just 20 cherries provide 25 milligrams of anthocyanins, which help to shut down the enzymes that cause tissue inflammation. So cherries can prevent many kinds of pain, one of them being arthritic joint pain.

While it holds true that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, it seems we need our cherries, too. So, maybe eat about a cup of cherries for breakfast and maybe some apple slices for lunch!

• Tart cherries are bursting with antioxidants. Tests show that Montmorency tart cherries have high ORAC values. “ORAC” stands for “oxygen radical absorption capacity,” a measure of how many antioxidants are in a food product and how powerful they are. Antioxidants are the cancer-fighting agents found in fruits and vegetables. Scientific research has proven that antioxidants lower the risk of cancer, heart disease and memory loss.

• New studies indicate cherries also have significant levels of melatonin, a potent antioxidant that kills free radicals, which are toxins believed to cause or worsen many diseases.

• Tart cherry juice concentrate is used as an all-natural alternative for more than 70 million people suffering from arthritis and other chronic joint pain. They contain powerful antioxidants that relieve the pain of arthritis and gout, protect against cardiovascular disease, and inhibit cancer tumors. Some people claim headache relief and a better night’s sleep.

All the medical information above is based on the tart cherry.

Double Cherry Pie

4 cups of frozen, unsweetened tart cherries, or two (16-ounce) cans of unsweetened tart cherries, well drained
1 cup of dried tart cherries
1 cup of granulated sugar
2 tablespoons of quick-cooking tapioca or cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon of almond extract
Pastry for two-crust, nine-inch pie
1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon of butter

Combine the frozen cherries, dried cherries, granulated sugar, tapioca and almond extract in a large mixing bowl; mix well. (It’s not necessary to thaw cherries.) Let the cherry mixture stand for 15 minutes. Line a nine-inch pie plate with pastry; fill it with the cherry mixture. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Dot with butter. Make a lattice top out of the remaining pastry. Seal and flute the edge. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for about one hour, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. If necessary, cover the edge of the crust with aluminum foil to prevent over-browning.

Cherries are one of the world’s oldest cultivated fruits. The cherry tree, prunus avium, is native to Eastern Europe and western Asia and is part of the rose family.

Today, 90 percent of the commercial cherry crop is grown in Michigan, California, Oregon and Washington. The most popular variety is the Bing cherry, developed by Seth Luelling in Milwaukie, Oregon in 1875. Allegedly, it is named after his Manchurian foreman.

It is believed the sweet cherry originated in the area between the Black and Caspian seas in Asia Minor around 70 B.C. The Romans introduced them to Britain in the first century A.D.

Cherries are drupes, or stone fruits, and are related to plums, peaches and nectarines.

The English colonists brought cherries to North America in the 1600s.

There are more than 1,000 varieties of cherries in the United States, but fewer than 10 are produced commercially.

On average, there are about 44 cherries in one pound.

In an average crop year, a sweet cherry tree will produce 800 cherries.

Seventy percent of the cherries produced in the United States are grown in the Northwest.

While they have long been a popular dessert fruit, cherries were used for their medicinal purposes in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Researchers first found that eating cherries may help relieve gout and arthritis attacks back in 1950 during a preliminary study of daily cherry consumption.

The world’s heaviest cherry was grown by Gerardo Maggipinto (Italy) and weighed 21.69 g (0.76 oz) on June 21, 2003. The cherry was presented at La Grande Ciliegia, in Sammichele di Bari, Italy.

In Japan, where cherry blossoms are the national flower, the cherry represents beauty, courtesy and modesty.

Usually eaten out of hand, sweet cherries are larger than sour cherries. They are heart-shaped and have a sweet, firm flesh. They range in color from the golden red-blushed Royal Ann to dark red and purplish-black. Bing, Lambert and Tartarian are other popular dark cherries. Sweet cherries also work well in cooked dishes.

Sour, or tart, cherries are more globular in shape and have a softer flesh. The early Richmond variety is the first available in late spring and is bright red in color, with the Montmorency soon following.

So grab a handful of cherries and nibble away. Or better yet, make this wonderful double cherry pie!

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