By: Judy Davie - The Food Coach
Cherry farmers on the east coast have been hit hard this year with farms in Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia reporting a 60% drop in annual harvest compared to last year. Rain, cold weather and low pollination spread have all contributed to what will be the most expensive cherry season in our Australian history.
Cherries typically have a 100 day season and are especially enjoyed over the festive season. In many homes they symbolise Christmas.
Christmas is a time for goodwill to all men, therefore we urge you to consider the cherry farmer before turning your back on these special festive fruits even if they are pricier than normal. When a decent bottle of wine costs more than $20, and can easily be drunk in a night, paying a little extra for a box of cherries which will last a few days or more isn't such an extravagance.
And while we're on the subject of wine and Christmas; drinking too much wine and eating too much rich food can lead to gout, which, for anyone who's ever suffered from it will testify, is a mighty painful and debilitating condition. Bob Hawke made tinned black cherries famous when he told Annabelle Crabbe on her Kitchen Cabinet TV show that he ate them daily to cure arthritis: Within days supermarkets across the country had sold out of black cherries. I wonder if Hawky would balk at paying a few extra dollars for fresh cherries if he knew they were as effective at curing the pain of joint inflammation? I'm guessing he would not.
The science on cherries and gout and inflammation is below (taken from The Australian Cherry Report, written By Accredited Exercise Physiologist & Nutritionist Kathleen Alleaume (MSc)
Gout is a common form of arthritis characterised by recurrent attacks of pain, swelling and redness in joints. Gout occurs when uric acid builds up in the bloodstream and uric acid crystals are deposited in the joints. Around 70,000 people in Australia have this form of arthritis. For decades, cherries have quietly grown a devoted fan base of arthritis and gout sufferers, who routinely consume the fruit to help soothe their symptoms. In fact, the suggestion that cherries might assist with arthritis and gout was first proposed in the 1950s. Preliminary research found that daily cherry consumption (approximately 4.5 cups of cherries) helped to relieve "gout attacks" and the pain associated with arthritis. Interestingly, after eating cherries, the patients in the study had lower blood levels of uric acid. Since then, several small-scale studies have confirmed this anti-arthritis link with cherries. A US investigation found that healthy women (aged 20-40 years) who consumed two servings of Bing sweet fresh cherries (about 45 cherries) for breakfast experienced a 15 percent reduction in blood uric acid levels, suggesting that natural substances in Bing sweet cherries may help reduce arthritic inflammation.
It's not just gout and arthritis that cherries can cure. Emerging studies suggest phytonutrients found in cherries may have the ability to reduce the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes. They are packed with antioxidants, including anthocyanins - the antioxidants responsible for their deep red colour - and flavonoids, such as quercetin and kaempferol. They also provide a good source of vitamin C, potassium and fibre.
So that's the health benefits covered and we all know about the taste and quality - which, if the cherries I ate the other day are anything to go by, has in no way been compromised by the weather.
The only hurdle to overcome is the price and that I think, when you consider the livelihood of our farmers and what they put in to produce, it's a small hurdle to overcome.
So let's say cheers to the 2016 cherry season and support our farmers so they too can have a Merry Christmas.
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