All cherries—sweet and sour—are a folk remedy for aches and pain. But recent medical research validates that sour cherries are superior to sweet varieties in their medicinal properties. This resonates with our common sense. Sweeter fruits are higher in carbohydrates and, therefore, lower in micronutrients with pharmaceutically healing properties.
Sour cherries provide highly effective pain relief and are an excellent source of antioxidant compounds. Their anti-inflammatory compounds, anthocyanins, are at least 10 times more active than aspirin according to a study from Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. Lead researcher, Muralee Nair, a professor of anatural products chemistry, says that twenty tart cherries a day can keep pain related to arthritis and inflammation at bay.
Additionally, sour cherries are a potent source of seventeen beneficial antioxidants. Antioxidants are useful in the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease and they help slow the aging process. Two of these antioxidants, kaempferol and quercetin are found in supplements used to improve memory, concentration and vision. The most common sweet cherries are deep red, but sour cherries are bright “cherry” red. They’re so tender, juicy and perishable that they bruise at a touch and are thus difficult to market.
Fresh sour cherries are available in grower’s markets or at U-Pick orchards. Look for them in mid-July following the sweet cherry harvest. Pit and use immediately or freeze for later use. Sour cherries, also marketed as tart or Montmorency cherries, are available frozen, canned or juiced.
While I’ve no argument with sweet cherries, when it comes to pie, sour cherries are incomparable. There’s good reason that these tart jewels are also known as pie cherries for they are at their best when cooked. In a pie or chutney, sour cherries become creamy and tender with a bright, refreshing tangy flavor and a vividly clear pink juice.
Cooked sweet cherries, on the other hand, get mushy and their color turns a muddy purple. Organic tart cherries are available from Eden foods dried, juiced and in cherry butter. Commercial sour cherries are canned or frozen. Choose those that are not packed in sugar syrup. Serve cherries as a cold soup, with game, and in any dessert or preserve that calls for cherries. Ready to start baking? Here’s my Cherry Pie Recipe.
May you be well nourished,