When I spent a couple of hours earlier this month pitting tart cherries, I worked over a colander nestled in a bowl. I didn’t want to lose a single drop of the prized juice (in reality I lost many drops, as is evident from the blood-like splatters I’ve wiped from my kitchen walls since then).
I was saving the juice, and didn’t even know why. It just looked so… red. It had to be high in something, some sort of anti-oxidant or super-food nutrient. Things that color are either really bad or really good, and something told me this was good.
A google search revealed that the stuff sells for a dollar an ounce in a certain chain of vitamin/supplement stores — a fact that warranted further reading. Turns out, tart cherries and their juice are high in all sorts of anti-inflammatory compounds, such as phenolics — little enzyme-blockers that work in a similar way as over-the-counter pain meds. The alternative medicine site I landed on listed a few things that could be helped by the juice: arthritis, neurodegenerative diseases, and gout (what is that, anyway?).
But the vitamin stores sell it for weightlifters — some studies showed that the juice prevents strength loss and damage resulting from exercise.
Stating the obvious if you know me, but: I can’t think of a person more opposite on the spectrum of people than myself from a group of persons who consider themselves weightlifters. I think I can now do a single push-up, but only after years of trying.
Maybe I should’ve been drinking tart cherry juice. It’s all that strength-loss — the reason for my unabashed wimpiness.
When I kept the juice, I did what I do with just about everything pureed or liquid: froze it in ice cube trays. I now have a bag of tart-cherry-juice-cubes, ready to be thrown into smoothies and other frozen summer drinks. This is not the syrup that resulted from sweetening my dried cherries, but the straight juice from pitting. So it’s still quite tart. Meaning: sweetener is in order, unless you’re dying for a lip-puckering shot of wake-up.
This was an experiment, and it worked. I’m back on my usual summer-sparkling-water kick, for a mid-afternoon treat — so I went for a soda drink rather than a smoothie. Of course, I drank it after lifting nothing more than a chunky 20-month old — but I can say with honesty that after carrying her around for a year and a half, I’m quite sure I’ve got some muscles, somewhere, that need some help.
Sour Cherry Tonic
- 2 Tbsp tart cherry juice (fresh or frozen in 1 Tbsp cubes)
- 1 Tbsp sugar (or less to taste)
- juice of 1/2 lime
- sparkling water
Place the cherry juice (frozen cubes are ok), sugar, and lime juice in a blender, and blend until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over ice in a small glass, and fill the rest with sparkling water. Enjoy while your muscles recover from whatever strenuous work you’ve been tackling.