Michigan, a state synonymous with the splendor of the Great Lakes, offers a delightful secret nestled within its fertile lands: the Montmorency fresh cherry. This exquisite tart cherry, primarily nurtured in Michigan's heartlands, stands out not just for its vibrant flavor, but also for its myriad health benefits. Best of all the cherry season for this ruby-red super fruit is a short couple of weeks during the summer months.
In this article, you'll discover:
- When cherries are in season
- How to enjoy a day at a U-Pick cherry farm
- When is the National Cherry Blossom Festival
- What products are made from cherries. This include cherry juice concentrate, cherry capsules, dried cherries and more.
- A few great tasting cherry recipes and even 5 of the best cherry pie recipes
- How to grab your free copy of the Tart Cherry Health Report
- And more...
The Cradle of Cherry Cultivation: Michigan's Fresh Cherry Regions
Michigan's cherry orchards predominantly flourish in the northwest expanses of the Lower Peninsula. Traverse City and its surrounding locales are particularly noted for cherry cultivation. Termed the "Cherry Capital of the World," this region reaps the benefits of an ideal mix of fertile, well-draining soil, a balanced climate, and the moderating influence of Lake Michigan. These factors work in unison, shielding the orchards from winter's severe cold and providing the perfect conditions for cherry growth.
In addition to being the "Cherry Capital of the World" this region of Northern Michigan is also sometimes referred to as the "Traverse Bay Farms Cherry Region", too.
Harvesting Time: The Anticipation of Fresh Cherry Season
The fleeting beauty of Montmorency cherries arrives between the cusp of late June to the dawn of August. July, bathed in summer's warmth, emerges as the zenith for cherry harvesting. However, nature's temperament means that the exact timings can oscillate based on annual weather variations.
The Cherry's Life Cycle: A Journey from Bud to Fruit
- Dormancy: The hush of winter sees cherry trees in deep slumber, conserving energy and preparing for the explosive growth of spring.
- Bud Burst: As spring whispers its arrival, tiny green buds, promising and full of potential, begin to speckle the skeletal branches.
- Blossoming: By the crescendo of spring—late April to the start of May—the buds metamorphose into a sea of ethereal white blossoms. This period is not just an agricultural phase but a cultural event. Many regions celebrate with cherry blossom festivals, turning orchards into vibrant social hubs.
- Fruit Set: Following successful pollination, often orchestrated by diligent bees, the blossoms bid adieu, revealing nascent green cherries in their wake.
- Fruit Development: Over the ensuing weeks, these green morsels undergo a transformation. They swell in size, absorbing nourishment from the parent tree and the sun-kissed environment.
- Ripening: The finale arrives by summer's zenith, as cherries don their iconic bright red cloak, signaling their readiness for harvest.
Mastering the Cherry Harvest: Picking and Preservation Tips
Ah, cherries! These small, round, deep-colored fruits are nature's delightful candies. Beyond their sweet-tart taste, cherries signify the culmination of patience, care, and a season's hard work.
Check out the Michigan Cherry Harvest Video
But, as with all of nature's bounty, cherries come with their quirks. Harvesting at the right time and storing them properly can make the difference between cherries that last days versus weeks. Here's how to master the art of cherry harvesting and preservation:
The Right Pick
- Observe the Color: Cherries should display a uniform, deep color, usually a rich red for varieties like Montmorency. The shade varies among varieties, so familiarize yourself with the ripe hue of the specific cherry type you're dealing with.
- Texture Matters: A perfectly ripe cherry has a firm yet slightly yielding texture. If a cherry is rock hard, it's underripe. Conversely, if it's too soft, it may be overripe or on its way to spoiling.
- Easy Does It: When picking cherries from the tree, gently twist the fruit around its stem. A ripe cherry will separate easily from the branch without requiring force.
Storing Freshly Picked Cherries
- Keep Them Cool: After picking, cherries begin to degrade quickly at room temperature. Transfer your fresh cherries to the refrigerator as soon as possible to slow down the ripening process and maintain their freshness.
- Avoid Immediate Washing: Do not wash cherries right after picking, as moisture can hasten spoilage. Instead, wash them just before consumption or usage.
- Use Breathable Storage: Store cherries in breathable bags or containers. This allows for slight air circulation, which can prevent mold growth and extend the cherries' shelf life.
Preserving Cherries for the Long Haul
- Freezing: For those looking to savor the cherry season long after it's over, freezing is your ally. Remove pits from cherries and spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer them to airtight bags or containers. This method prevents cherries from clumping together, ensuring you can retrieve the exact quantity you need later on.
- Drying: Another preservation method is drying. Pitted cherries can be dried using a dehydrator or an oven set at a low temperature. Once dried, store in a cool, dry place in airtight containers.
- Canning: For those keen on making jams, jellies, or simply preserving whole cherries in syrup, canning is a tried-and-true method. Ensure you follow safety guidelines for canning to prevent any microbial growth.
- Making Preserves: Transform cherries into delicious jams, jellies, or compotes. Preserves can last for months when stored properly and can be a delightful way to enjoy the taste of fresh cherries during off-season months.
Avoiding Pitfalls (Literally)
If you're planning to use cherries in recipes, consider investing in a cherry pitter. This tool simplifies the often tedious task of removing pits and ensures you get the most out of your cherries.
In conclusion, cherries, like all fruits, require a delicate touch, keen observation, and a bit of know-how. By understanding when and how to pick them, as well as mastering the art of preservation, you can enjoy these delectable fruits at their best, whether it's during the peak of summer or the chill of winter. So, here's to the cherry on top of your culinary endeavors!
Cherries' Delicate Lifespan
Nature's creations often possess fleeting beauty. Fresh Montmorency cherries are no exception. Refrigerated, they usually retain their vibrancy for up to a week. However, for those who've embarked on the freezing journey, cherries can whisper tales of summer for an entire year.
Embrace Tradition with U-Pick Cherry Farms
The joy of biting into a freshly plucked cherry, with its tantalizing blend of sweetness and tartness, is an unparalleled experience. But what if you could amplify this joy by being the one to pick that cherry? Enter the world of U-Pick cherry farms – a delightful fusion of tradition, community, and a celebration of nature’s bounty.
The U-Pick Experience: More Than Just Picking Fruit
U-Pick cherry farms are not merely about harvesting fruit; they're a journey, an immersion into the world of agriculture, and an opportunity to form a connection with the land. These farms open their gates to the public, allowing visitors to wander amidst rows of cherry trees, and pick their fruit.
A Nostalgic Trip Down Memory Lane
For many, U-Pick farms evoke a sense of nostalgia. They're reminiscent of simpler times when families would come together for seasonal harvests. It's a tradition that binds generations, where tales of yesteryear blend seamlessly with the laughter and excitement of the present.
Education Meets Enjoyment
These farms aren't just entertainment hubs; they're educational centers. Farmers often take the time to educate visitors about the different cherry varieties, their growth cycles, and sustainable farming practices. For urban dwellers and children especially, it's an eye-opening insight into where their food comes from.
Sustainability and Community Support
Opting to pick your cherries not only ensures you get the freshest produce, but it's also a nod to sustainability. Directly sourcing from farms reduces the carbon footprint associated with transporting produce. Moreover, you're directly supporting local farmers and communities, ensuring they get a fair price for their produce.
Tips for Your U-Pick Adventure
- Dress Appropriately: Farms can be dusty, and cherry trees might have low-hanging branches. Wear comfortable shoes, hats for sun protection, and clothes you don't mind getting a little dirty.
- Check the Best Time: Cherry season is typically between late June to early August. However, the exact timing can vary based on the farm's location and the year's climate conditions. It's always a good idea to call ahead or check the farm's website.
- Bring Containers: While many farms provide baskets or containers, it's eco-friendly to bring your own. Ensure your containers are spacious and not too deep to avoid squishing the cherries at the bottom.
- Mind the Trees: While picking, be gentle. Avoid pulling or tearing branches. If a cherry is ripe, it should come off the tree with a simple twist.
- Know Your Limits: Most U-Pick farms charge by the pound or basket. Be aware of how much you're picking to avoid any surprises at the checkout.
In a world that often feels disconnected, U-Pick cherry farms offer a wholesome, grounding experience. They're a celebration of nature, a testament to the hard work of farmers, and an opportunity for families and friends to come together. So, this cherry season, why not take a trip to your local U-Pick farm and embrace a cherished tradition? The cherries you pick will undoubtedly taste sweeter, enriched with memories of a day well spent.
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