Cherry Season is here!
As many locavores might agree, living the seasons by what is seasonally available makes for a lot of excitement when the harvest of certain produce arrives. With cherries comes the knowledge that the heart of summer has arrived and plenty of pit spitting at the beach! Cherries have a short growing season with the peak of it falling at the height of summer.
Cherries can only grow in cool climates because their seeds must be chilled before they are able to germinate. The trees blossom every spring in a beautiful celebration of warmth arriving after a long winter. Despite their affinity to colder climates, cherries are susceptible to damage from rain, hail, and other weather, which contributes to their higher price compared to other fruit. Cherries come in a seemingly endless array of varieties ranging from tart to sweet and pale yellow to both deep and bright red.
Cherries have been enjoyed for millennia all over the world. Their indigenous range was broad, extending through most of Europe, Western Asia, and parts of Northern Africa. Today, around 40% of the world’s cherry crop is produced in Europe, while about 14% is produced in the United States.
FarmRaiser currently works in two parts of the country, both of which are known for their production of cherries!
Cherries in Washington
Washington is the birthplace of the famed Rainier cherry variety, which is a cross of Bing and Van cultivators. They were named after the iconic Mt. Rainier. They have a notable creamy and pink color, and are very sweet. Washington, along with Oregon and California, are the leading producers of sweet cherries in the nation.
Cherries in Michigan
In Michigan, the most productive cherry growing region is the Traverse City area, which has led the town to claim their title of “Cherry Capital of the World”. Cherries first arrived there in 1852 when they were brought over by the first European settler in the area. Peter Dougherty planted an orchard on Old Mission Peninsula where the sandy soil, cold Artic winds in the winter, and warm summers provides the perfect climate for cherry cultivation.
Michigan produces over 70% of the tart cherries grown in the United States on over 3.8 million trees. Michigan also produces sweet cherries, which can be found at roadside stands dotted throughout the state. There is truly nothing better than a sun-warmed bag of cherries as a summer road-trip snack!
Cherries are known for their use in pies and other sweet dishes, but there are plenty of savory uses for them as well! Here are a few recipes to help you make the most of this summer’s cherry crop!
This Apple, Dried Cherry, and Walnut Salad with Maple Dressing would be a great in the fall when the apples are in season.
Pork Medallions with Port Wine-Dried Cherry Pan Sauce by Bruce Weinstein. Do your best to buy organic, humanely raised pork (preferably from a farmer in your community!).
Cherry Crisp by The Pioneer Woman. This recipe calls for frozen cherries but fresh cherries would be even better – just remember to pit them!
And of course Pie, made with Fresh Cherries.
Enjoy the cherries, and enjoy your summer!