Top Pick Of The Week

February 20, 2007

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Cherry Juice
Drink to your health with delicious, antioxidant-filled cherry juice. Photo by Peter Rol | SXC.
WHAT IT IS: Juice from Montmorency cherries.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: Top-quality cherry juice hits the mainstream in four flavor variations.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Loaded with lush cherry flavor and super-healthy antioxidants, it’s a wonderful drinking juice and a snazzy cooking ingredient.

Tart Is Smart Cherry Juice: Tarty Smarty

CAPSULE REPORT: America is antioxidant-happy. We drink green tea, gobble blueberries and have changed our allegiance from milk chocolate to dark. Now, there’s sour cherry juice. In addition to 17 different antioxidants—which include unique pain-relieving properties—it’s delicious. Tart Is Smart cherry juice was one of the best products we tasted at a recent large trade show of natural and organic products. It’s available in four flavors: basic Tart Cherry plus Cherry Berry, Cherry Blueberry and Cherry Grape, plus concentrate.

Cherry juice tastes like fresh cherries—there’s no added sugar. Like most fruit juice, it’s crisp and refreshing. You can use it as a base for fruit soups, sauces and to flavor numerous other dishes. The brand name is melodious but misleading: The juice is not tart and there’s no pucker. These are the same cherries used for cherry pie filling. We previously avoided juice because we preferred to eat solid fruit. Now, we’re convinced that a glass of Tart Is Smart a day will keep the doctor away—and unlike those apples, which can often be flat-tasting, it always tastes great. The concentrated form is the economical way to enjoy it as often as you like. Read the full review below.

Cooking With Fruit

Nicole Routhier's Fruit Cookbook The Fruit Cookbook Stone Fruit
Nicole Routhier’s Fruit Cookbook, by Nicole Routhier. Despite a lack of photos, readers love this cookbook for its 400+ recipes and advice for using fruit in more ways than most cooks might think imaginable, from Roasted Pepper and Apple Dip to Lemon-Lime Spaghetti. Click here for more information or to purchase. The Fruit Cookbook, by Emma Summer. Fresh and zesty recipes from Great Britain incorporate glorious fruit in every course, from salads and starters to main courses and desserts. The photography alone will encourage anyone to eat more fruit. Click here for more information or to purchase. Stone Fruit: Cherries, Nectarines, Apricots, Plums, Peaches, by Cynthia C. Nims. All the secrets to cooking with stone fruit, including how to keep enjoying tasty recipes when summer’s fresh fruit is gone. Elegant recipes, both savory and sweet. Click here for more information or to purchase.

Tart Is Smart Cherry Juice: Tarty Smarty



Tart is Tart Is Smart Cherry JuiceSmart is an all-natural tart (or sour) cherry juice made from Montmorency cherries, known as tart red cherries, the major variety of cherry grown in the U.S. The fruit is perishable and bruises easily, so it is seldom found at market: As soon as it is picked, it is processed into juice, pie filling, preserves and other foods. Among fruits, cherries have high levels of antioxidants; among cherries, Montmorency have the highest. (The cherry juice has 12800 ORAC units per 100 grams, or 3.5 ounces. You can review a chart of foods with the highest levels of antioxidants, that includes a detailed explanation of antioxidants, on Not only do they potentially keep you healthy; research has shown them to be palliative in relieving the effects of gout and arthritis (see Cherries & Health, below).

TPG Enterprises, producers of Tart Is Smart, is a family operation located in the small agricultural community of Othello, Washington. The Taylor family has been farming there since 1982, and has been growing and processing 300 acres of Montmorency cherries for ten years. In 2004, noting the research on the health benefits of cherries, Ivan Taylor had the idea to make Tart is Smart juice. Tart, or sour, cherry varieties (which have been shown to offer significant health benefits), are in season only in July. Juice can be enjoyed year-round.

Taylor opined that more people would take advantage of the health benefits of tart cherries if the juice were more accessible—e.g. in grocery channels, not just health food stores—and designed attractive packaging that has broad appeal across demographic lines.

In addition to university-tested health benefits, which include pain relief (you’ll read more about them below), the juice is delicious for drinking and for cooking. And a tasty, refreshing juice can help anyone get to the USDA Food Pyramid recommendation of 2 to 4 servings of fruit per day (there are 2 servings of fruit in each 12-ounce bottle of Tart Is Smart).

Flavored Cherry Juice & Concentrated Juice

A big disclaimer here: “tart” cherries are not tart—they’re perfectly sweet and lovely. Botanically, all varieties of cherries are grouped into Sweet or Sour†. The difference is relative: similar to tart apple varieties like Granny Smith and Winesap, sour cherries have a nice tartness that adds vibrancy to the taste. No added sweetener or sweeter juice additive is needed to make the Tart Cherry juice taste delightful; it has the same level of natural sweetness as many fruit juices.

† Learn more about cherries in our Cherry Facts article.

The company says that the flavor of their juice often been compared to cherry pie, but that romanticism is a disservice. While it is true that cherry pie is made of the same variety of tart red cherry, the Tart Is Smart juice doesn’t have a cooked cherry flavor. It’s pretty close to eating fresh fruit.

  • Tart Cherry, the basic flavor, is the most wine-like of the four. Visually, it could be mistaken for a glass of Burgundy‡, although there’s no mistaking the cherry flavor on the palate.

‡We have mixed analogies slightly: These are red cherries, so the flavor is associated more with the Sangiovese grape from Tuscany: Morrellino, a fine Tuscan red made of Sangiovese, actually means “little cherry.” Burgundy and Italian Nebbiolo have black cherry flavors. But from a color standpoint, the juice has the red hues of a Burgundy, rather than the darker colors of Sangiovese and Nebbiolo.

Tart Cherry is a wonderful addition to the juice line-up. It affords fresh cherry taste year-round, whether straight from the bottle or glass or as an ingredient in other beverages and dishes.

The Taylors decided to blend the basic Tart Cherry juice with other healthy fruit juices to give consumers different flavor options. Of the blends, our favorite was Cherry Berry.

  • Cherry Berry is the sweetest of the juices, adding sweet cherry juice (Bing) to the tart cherries, as well as raspberry, blueberry and blackberry juices.

Cherry Juice

Orange juice, an all-American favorite, can’t hold a candle to cherry juice in terms of health benefits. Photo by Andrew Dernie | IST.

The other two blends are obviously popular—they sell, and sound sexier than “Tart Cherry.” But to our palate, the fruit juices that are added dilute the delicious cherry flavor and produce an ambiguous-tasting (though tasty) juice. While we drank every last drop, the first two simply were tastier to us because we reveled in the cherryness.

  • Cherry Blueberry adds blueberry—a very popular antioxidant food. Aside from the açaí berry, which is not eaten as a fruit (it’s very perishable and when picked is promptly converted to concentrate for beverages, sorbets, etc.), it has the highest ORAC score of any fruit. If you read the ingredients label, you’ll also notice pineapple juice—and the Cherry Blueberry has a pineapple-cherry flavor (pineapple brings nothing to the antioxidant table). Yet, this flavor is the company’s best seller because of the rock star appeal of blueberries.
  • Cherry Grape was our least favorite flavor. It had a thinner consistency and there was a slight mustiness to our particular bottle that was reminiscent of a wine cellar. We like that smell when we visit wineries; we didn’t like it in the juice. But, we somewhat enjoyed the grapiness on the finish.

For those who want to make cherry juice a part of their lives (and after you read the Cherries & Health Benefits section, it will sound appealing), the Tart Cherry flavor is available in cost-effective concentrated form, in pints and quarts. The pint of concentrate represents a $40 savings over individual bottles; the quart an $80 savings—and you spare the environment a lot of plastic recycling. After the initial enjoyment of the flavored juices, we’ve been intaking our daily six ounces via concentrate (cleverly filling up the twelve-ounce flavored juice empties).

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Serving Suggestions

Aside from a glass of juice in the morning, how else can you enjoy Tart Is Smart?

  • Beverages: Make cherry smoothies, cocktails (add vodka or gin), Shirley Temples (mix with ginger ale).
  • Condiments: Cherry juice adds flare to barbecue sauce, marinades and salad dressings.
  • Fruit Soup: It’s easy to make a delicious fruit soup with Tart Is Smart as a base: Mix with with a bit of wine or liqueur. If you’d like a cream soup, add cream or yogurt. Then add chopped fresh fruit and garnish with chopped mint.
  • Desserts: Reduce the juice to make sauces for ice cream and cheesecake.

Grilled swordfish with cherry sauce. Photo courtesy of Cherry Marketing Institute.

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We’ve included a recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Cherry Glaze below. Other recipes can be found at the Cherry Marketing Institute website.

And there’s one more way to enjoy Tart Is Smart:

  • Wine Substitute: Like Currant C, a wonderful currant juice we reviewed last month, Tart Is Smart can substitute for wine for people who can’t drink wine. The cherry juice is less complex than the currant juice, but given how many red wine grape varietals have strong cherry fruit notes, it can pair very well. In a multi-course dinner, having both Currant C and Tart Is Smart provides welcome variety.

Montmorency Cherries
Tasty and pain-reducing: Montmorency Cherries, a.k.a. tart red cherries, contain significant levels of 17 different antioxidants. Photo courtesy of the Cherry Marketing Institute.

Cherries & Health

You’ll want to review the research with your healthcare provider and get guidance from him or her, but reports about cherry juice are promising. Antioxidants can help fight cell damage, which produces cancer and heart disease. Tart red cherries contain significant levels of 17 different antioxidants, including anthocyanins and melatonin.

Anthocyanin, one of nature’s most powerful antioxidants, is a natural Cox-2 inhibitor that can relieve the pain of arthritis, gout and possibly fibromyalgia for many people. Ongoing research at Michigan State University and the University of Texas at San Antonio shows that tart cherries contain enough anthocyanins to help relieve the pain of these diseases, and can be a safe alternative to drugs such as Vioxx and Celebrex for the relief of pain from arthritis.

According to the Cherry Marketing Institute, to date no other fruit or vegetable has been found to have the pain-relieving properties of tart cherries.

High levels of melatonin, well known as a natural sleep enhancer, are also found in the cherries. Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant that can kill free oxygen radicals: It has been linked to the prevention of brain deterioration due to aging and the vigor of the body’s immune responses, and has been found to retard the growth of some cancers. It also can also alleviate certain forms of anxiety and depression. The other antioxidants in tart cherry juice support overall heart and artery health and also contribute to joint health, keeping joints healthy and functioning as one ages.

RECIPE: Sweet Potatoes With Cherry Glaze


  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (7 to 8 ounces each)

  • 2 tablespoons cherry juice concentrate

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

  • 1 green onion, sliced



Sweet Potatoes
Recipe and photo courtesy of the Cherry Marketing Institute. Visit the Vegetables Section for more vegetable recipes.
  1. Scrub potatoes and halve lengthwise; do not peel. Spray a baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place potatoes, cut-side down, in pan. Bake in a preheated 400°F oven 30 to 40  minutes, or until almost tender.
  2. Stir together cherry juice concentrate (undiluted), brown sugar, butter and ginger. Turn potatoes cut-side up and brush with cherry mixture. Bake 5 to 10 minutes, or until tender. Sprinkle with green onion. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

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For millennia, people have drunk to each other’s health with all types of alcoholic beverages (generally because brewed beverages were safer than the water supply). Had they only known, they could have used tart cherry juice as a mixer.

Whether or not you have a side agenda to reduce pain, preserve your joints or enjoy the benefits of 17 antioxidants, the sophisticated palate will enjoy a glass of Tart Cherry, everyone will enjoy Cherry Berry and discovering a delicious new “health food” is the cherry on top of the cake.

—Karen Hochman

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to people who love healthy things that taste great, and who enjoy new cooking ingredients.


Cherry Berry, Cherry Blueberry, Cherry Grape
and Tart Cherry

  • Concentrate: Tart Cherry
    1 Pint (16 6-ounce portions)
    1 Quart (32 servings)
  • 12-Ounce Bottle: Four Flavors
    (2 6-ounce portions)
    Suggested Retail Price

Purchase concentrates online at 

Individual bottles, shown at right, are
available at numerous fine retailers
nationwide, including Albertson’s, Kroger
and Publix.  Check the store locator on
the website.

Tart Is Smart needs to be refrigerated,
so is found the produce section of
grocery stores.

Tart Is Smart
The juices are currently available in four flavors.

Other Favorite Juices


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