Living in western Michigan offers a number of ways to enjoy all of the fruits of Mother Nature including the tart cherry. For example, do you know about the benefits of tart cherry juice?
What’s great about living in Grand Rapids is we are only a hop, skip and jump away from the “Cherry Capital of the World”. A short 2 ½ drive from downtown Grand Rapids to Traverse City is a great way to end a busy work week and enjoy a relaxing summer weekend.
Best of all, once you’re in the Traverse City area you’ll be able to enjoy the thousands of acres of cherry orchards. In this article I will be sharing when is the best time to travel to Northern Michigan for cherry season. Also, I will be sharing some of the great natural benefits of tart cherry juice, too.
If you’re never visited a cherry orchard while on a trip to Traverse City, I found a video on YouTube that shows how the fruit is actually harvested.
Last year, I was fortunate enough to actually be on the Johnson Farm and help to harvest fresh cherries. As you’ll see in the video, a huge machine called the “shaker” actually grabs the trees and then literally shakes the cherries right from the branches. Although I didn’t get a chance to operate the “shaker” I did get a chance to ride in the passenger seat and observe.
Once the cherries are harvested, they are then processed into the many different type of cherry products including the juice concentrate, fresh cherries for eating, dried cherries for snacking, IQF (individually quick frozen) for baking and recipes.
However, my two favorite types are the dried and the juice concentrate. The reason is the dried cherries are excellent to toss into my morning oatmeal or mix with cashews and raisins.
Here is my secret afternoon Dried Cherry snack recipe:
- ¼ cup dried cherries
- ½ cup cashews
- ¼ cup raisins
- ½ cup peanut
- ¼ M & M’s
Toss everything together and enjoy. I use this salty and sweet mixture as a mid-afternoon treat.
While the dried fruit does offer some natural health benefits, it’s the juice concentrate that offers a powerhouse of antioxidants.
Did you know it takes the juice of 100 cherries to make just one ounce of the tart cherry juice concentrate? So by mixing one ounce of the concentrate with seven ounces of water to make an eight-ounce glass, you’ll be enjoying almost 3600 ORAC units per glass. ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity. This tells us of well a specific food can fight the damaging effects of free radicals.
A free radical is missing an oxygen molecule and basically roams about the body searching for oxygen molecule to steal from healthy cells. That is why free radicals at linked to the start of disease in the body.
In addition to its free radical fighting ability, the cherry juice also offers natural pain relieve for joint pain caused by arthritis. According to published research from Michigan State University, tart cherries offer 10 times the anti-inflammatory ability of aspirin and other over-the counter inflammation drugs without the dangerous side effects.
Check out this great information on the joint pain fighting ability of the tart cherry.
So when I get pain in any of my joints, I reach for a glass of the tart cherry juice. Here is a recipe on that I have been enjoying for the past several months.
Low-Fat Cherry Juice Smoothie
A quick, easy breakfast treat.
Makes 2 servings (about 1 cup each)
Calories per serving: 125
Total fat per serving: 0.7 grams; 2.2 mg cholesterol
Percent calories from fat: 5%
- 1 very ripe banana, peeled
- 1 cup frozen unsweetened tart cherries
- ½ tablespoon cherry juice concentrate
- 1 cup skim milk
Put banana, frozen cherries and milk in the container of an electric blender; purée until smooth. Serve immediately.
Northern Michigan Cherry Harvest Season
The Michigan cherry harvest season usually occurs the first or second week of July. It’s during this time of the year, you’ll be able to enjoy some of the freshest and most delicious cherries you’ll ever find. Also, if you have arthritis pain, make sure to grab some of the juice concentrate while you’re Up North, too.