Fruit is so good that scientists think it may make chimps smarter.
"Chimpanzees remember the exact location of all their favourite fruit trees," wrote Matt Walker on Earth News (A BBC.com website) June 8th. "Their spatial memory is so precise that they can find a single tree among more than 12,000 others within a patch of forest." He cited a joint Ivory Coast-German study that mapped more than 12,000 trees around the Tai National Park in Ivory Coast. Researchers found that chimps not only can find a single tree but can also remember which trees are in season and which trees are the best fruit producers.
The study noted that chimps seemed to have favorite trees depending on the season. For example, when the coula nuts are in season, chimpanzees will spend hours cracking the nuts with tools and when the Sacoglottis fruit is ripe, they spend hours pressing them for juice. Who said Slow Food started with humans?
Walker notes that a theory known as the "ecological hypothesis" proposes that the need to remember and find food resources, such as fruit trees, could have driven the evolution of primate brains. A preference for fruit eating, or frugivory, might lead to more intelligence compared to leaf-eating, or foliovory, because fruit is harder to find. So precise "mapping" of fruit trees could be an indication of ape intelligence.
And all you had to do was call The FruitGuys. Does anyone know how to translate 1-877-Fruit-Me into Chimpanzee...
Meet your inner fruit chimp and be as frugivorous as you like. Find out exactly what's in your box by region on our In the Mix page. Enjoy and be fruitful!
- Chris Mittelstaedt
Pick a Peck a
Here at The FruitGuys we work with fruit all week, but we still love it on the weekends. For those who haven't tried it we'd like to recommend a U-Pick outing. East Coast residents have incorporated apple picking into their fall activities for generations. With the growing interest in local farming, the varieties of “agri-tourism” are growing. Many farms now offer pick-your-own harvests and “agri-tainment” such as hayrides, hikes, tours, and programs for kids about farm life and ecology.
A family outing to an orchard is a delightful way to spend a day. For one, it gives you an appreciation for the food that others pick for you. Picking ripe fruit is a skill, and farmers at U-Pick ranches will gladly give you pointers. They'll also supply you with buckets and ladders. Some farms require that you sign liability waivers if you use ladders. But more orchards are growing semi-dwarf trees that are easy pickin’ and ideal for children.
If you get all your little farm hands working you should have a decent bounty. Two quarts of handpicked strawberries will make you feel rich. You may want to plan what to do with your day's gleanings—jams? Jellies? Or simply fresh gifts from the field for your friends at home. For those feeling timid about jam making, look into freezer jams, which require no cooking.
West Coast folks have a variety of harvests to choose from depending on the season. Brentwood, CA (Contra Costa County) is a great destination right now for picking stone fruits like white peaches and pluots. Harvest Time is a non-profit agritourism organization that produces a farm trails map of the area.
On the East Coast, a drive in the country will likely intersect with a “U-pick” farm. Weaver’s Orchard just west of Philadelphia has strawberries now. In the Midwest, summer berries can be found just 35 miles southwest of Chicago in Homer Glen, IL (Will County), Garden Patch has strawberries with raspberries, gooseberries, and currants.
To find a farm near you, try PickYourOwn.org. It’s always a good idea to call ahead to get the farm report before hitchin’ up your wagon.
- Heidi Lewis
Cherry season is here. They are tasty and delicious but also a super food - researchers have found that cherries may help you sleep better, avoid jet lag, and possibly lessen the symptoms of arthritis and gout.
The secret to their success? Melatonin, a hormone produced in the brain’s pineal gland that has been credited with slowing the aging process, and fighting insomnia and jet lag. A 2001 study at the University of Texas found that tart cherries contain significant amounts of melatonin, which is also being studied as a potential treatment for cancer, depression, and other diseases and disorders.
A 2003 study found that cherry consumption lowered concentrations of plasma urate and decreased inflammatory markers in healthy women, suggesting that cherries may help reduce inflammation and arthritis and gout symptoms.
Although trace amounts of melatonin are found in bananas, corn and other foods, cherries, especially tart cherries, seem to have higher concentrations. Around age 30, the body has more difficulty producing melatonin. Over time, the loss of melatonin production can significantly disrupt a person's sleep patterns, leaving them feeling sluggish.
The key to the melatonin source in cherries is their skin and pigmentation, where antioxidants called anthocyanins are found. Antioxidant strength is measured in Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) units. ORAC measures how many oxygen radicals a specific food can absorb and deactivate. The more oxygen radicals a food absorbs, the higher its ORAC score. The higher the ORAC score, the better a food is at helping our bodies fight diseases like cancer and heart disease. Cherries are in the top 10 fruits scored by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.
Nutritionists suggest that people consume 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC units a day to have an impact on their health. Fresh cherries have a lower ORAC score (similar to other fruits but less than some berries) than tart ones that are made into juice, dried, or frozen:
* Fresh sweet cherries: 580 ORAC units per 3.5 ounces
* Cherry juice concentrate: 12,800 ORAC units
* Dried cherries: 6,800 ORAC units
* Frozen cherries: 2,033 ORAC units
* Canned cherries: 1,700 ORAC units
For more information on antioxidants, visit American Dietetic Association, Mayo Clinic or Cleveland Clinic and search "antioxidants." For more on cherries, see www.choosecherries.com.
- Jeff Koelemay
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