Last Thursday, January 28th, I had the pleasure of attending a virtual tart cherry tasting experience, sponsored by Montmorency U.S. Tart Cherries. The speaker was Janet Helm, MS, RD nutrition consultant, Tart Cherry Industry.

Primarily grown on small, generations-old family farms, Montmorency is the variety of tart cherry most commonly grown in the U.S. Tart cherries are often called "sour cherries," and they have a deep ruby-red color plus a unique "sweet-tart" flavor. Most are sold frozen or processed.

We learned that Montmorency cherries have an "on-trend flavor"—more of a "sophisticated sour—plus a ton of functional benefits, too. Cherries also have various flavor pairings, and with desserts becoming more savory, tart cherries help strike the right complexity and balance.

Scientific studies on tart cherries include sleep, exercise recovery, arthritis and gout, heart and gut health, too, and virtually all of the health-related research on tart cherries have been conducted on Montmorency tart cherries.

We tried both sweetened and unsweetened tart cherries, as well as cherry juice and cherry concentrate. Cherry concentrate was a surprise—it was very thick, and sweet! Cherry concentrate is mostly used in baked goods and other products, not just drank by itself, so that is why; it's also often used in development for flavor and color. The cherry juice was very tasty, albeit tart, and cherry juice is also an antioxidant, which is good for your health. 

You could also tell which cherries were sweetened, vs. unsweetened—the unsweetened were very small, and the sweetened had a more "puffed-up" look (see the picture at the top of this page). 

Cherries are also known as a “superfruit,” which influences purchase intent, especially among millennials, foodies and health-conscious people. 

Also, red is predicted to be a top food and beverage color in 2021, as the vibrant shade can help signal the start of a new era. So keep your eyes peeled for red ingredients—possibly cherries—in snacks and baked goods this year!