If you live in Wisconsin, you will see cherries on the menu just about everywhere – from salads to baked goods, and even in your Old Fashioned (brandy press for me please)! But did you know those sweet little stone fruits have a variety of health benefits and a rich Midwestern history?
The History of Wisconsin Cherries
In 1896, E.S. Goff and A.L. Hatch planted the area's first successful tart cherry crop just north of Sturgeon Bay. Goff, a Horticulture Professor at the University of Wisconsin, and Hatch, a local fruit grower, found the shallow, rocky soil, and the lake effect to be the perfect growing environment for Montmorency cherry trees. Farmers across the peninsula took notice and began planting their cherry crops. In 1929, Carl Reynolds created the Cherry Blossom Festival, attracting visitors and attention from around the country.
By the 1940s, 700 Door County cherry growers were producing up to 50 million pounds of cherries every year, or about 10% of the world's cherry supply! But because cherry picking was a tedious and time-consuming process, the fruit growers had to get creative. This is when we saw the rise of "pick-your-own" cherry attractions and cherry picking camps for teenagers. The cherry industry also diversified the local culture by attracting laborers from other states and even other countries. Along with the invention of the mechanical cherry picker in the 1960s came increased production, and Door County cherry products started to be shipped nationwide. Today, Door County still grows 5-10% of all cherries in the United States.
The Health Benefits of Cherries
Cherries are a low-calorie and highly nutritious fruit. They are full of vitamins and minerals including potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese, and vitamins C and K, which all help keep your body functioning properly. Vitamin C is especially helpful for strengthening your immune system, and potassium aids in nerve function and preventing muscle contractions. The fiber found in cherries helps you to maintain your digestive system. Cherries also rank low on the glycemic index when compared to other fruits, so they will not spike your blood sugar or insulin levels.
Antioxidants & Anti-Inflammation
All types of cherries are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. These compounds protect your body against cell damage and a variety of diseases including diabetes, heart disease, cognitive decline, and some types of cancer. The anti-inflammatory effects of cherries can also help reduce the pain and symptoms associated with arthritis and gout.
The compounds in cherries that give them their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties have also been found to help with muscle recovery and may even help with athletic performance. Research has shown that cherries can help with endurance, prevent strength loss, accelerate muscle recovery, and decrease exercise-induced muscle pain, inflammation, and damage.
Fruit-rich diets are a fantastic way to increase your heart health and prevent cardiovascular disease, but the potassium and antioxidants in cherries can be particularly beneficial. Potassium helps regulate blood pressure by removing excess sodium from the body while the antioxidants in cherries help protect your heart against inflammation and damage. Research has also found that cherries may help to control diabetes and high cholesterol.
Recent studies have found that cherries may even provide health benefits outside of waking hours. Cherries naturally contain melatonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and mood, which can help you fall asleep and improve the quality of your sleep.
Get your free cherry juice shot for Free Shot Friday!
So, drink to your health and the Wisconsin economy this Free Shot Friday at the Western Racquet FuelBar! Along with our typical offerings, you will also have the option to choose cherry juice as your free super shot with the purchase of any smoothie while supplies last.