A cherry grower in Northern Michigan has farmed his last million poundsof tart cherries and is now pressing the fruit into service as a healthpill rich with anti-oxidants and other beneficial compounds. The GreatLakes Radio Consortium’s Michelle Corum reports from Traverse City:
A cherry grower in Northern Michigan has farmed his last million
pounds of tart cherries and is now pressing the fruit into service
as a health pill rich with anti-oxidants and other beneficial
compounds. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Michelle Corum reports
from Traverse City.
Bob & Janet Underwood are working in a warehouse packing up cherry
pills. This is the first fall in years, they aren’t manning their orchard
market selling apple and cherry products.
“Last weekend would have been our busiest time of the
Now they buy their cherries from a local cooperative because as Bob
Underwood explains, they’re done farming.
“You know that’s history for us for now, we’re in another venture
that’s taking the fruit and putting it in a tablet form, giving the
public the chance to get whole fresh fruit in a diff way. Before it was in a cup, now its in a pill”
They call it “Cherry Rich”. Cherries fresh from the orchard are
only available for about 3 weeks. So Underwood came up with the
idea of putting cherries into tablets and chewable wafers so they
can be eaten year round. Making them is a region wide
production that sends the cherries around Lake Michigan: They’re
quick frozen in Traverse City, dried in northern Illinois, and
packaged in Watoma, Wisconsin, and marketed back in northern
The Underwoods say for years, customers have asked for their pure
cherry juice concentrate because they find it helps their
Michigan State University has taken note of anecdotal evidence like
that and done research on red tart cherries. Dr. Muralee Nair,
researcher in MSU’s department of Horticulture tells what they
“What we found in the lab study is the cherry compound has the ability to inhibit the inflammation causing enzyme.”
And it’s the cherry’s red color which, he says, is superior to
other red-colored fruit.
“The red color in tart and sweet cherries are the same
compound. But the red color in raspberry is not the same as the red color
in tart cherries.”
He says eating about 20 tart cherries a day (and consuming its
compound called anthocyanin), could reduce inflammation and
headache, possibly better than aspirin.
Michigan State University researchers say their work is ongoing and
they don’t endorse any product. But “Cherry Rich” may not be
exclusive for long. Amway has rights to use patents from
Michigan State University research related to Tart cherries.
They’re developing their “Nutrilite” brand foods and supplements
involving cherries that they’re not ready to announce yet.
Nutriceuticals are compounds in plants that may have almost drug-
like properties. Research is only NOW finding out what these
properties are and how to extract them.
The Cherry Marketing Institute, (a promotion organization funded by U.S.
cherry growers) is doing it’s own research of the nutriceutical
properties of cherries. They say preliminary results of a
University of Texas Medical School study show cherries have high
levels of the anti-oxidant melatonin. Cherry Marketing President
Phil Corson says their studies are continuing.
“We’ve spent 40-80 thousand a year over five years, our goal is to
take a look at what’s there, and we feel we’ve only scratched
But although nutriceutical research is new and producing some
interesting results. David Schardt of the Center for Science in the
Public Interest in Washington DC expresses caution:
“Simply because a fruit has antioxidant value in a lab test
doesn’t mean it’ll have that same potency in a capsule.
It’s one thing to see something in the lab. It’s something else to
see it work inside our body when we’re under different
influences. It’s by no means assured that cherries
will have the terrific antioxidant capacity they seem to have in
Still, industry officials hope research can lead to more fruit
consumption and help a stunted market that hasn’t been a bowl of
cherries lately. Underwood’s plan is to bottle the positives
of cherries, and hopefully sell others on the pill’s convenience
and health. For the GLRC, I’m Michelle Corum, in Traverse City, Michigan.