Tuesday, June 17, 2014

In Season in West Michigan: Cherries

Cherries, one of the world’s most craved fruits, are grown in 20 countries worldwide. These fan favorites are cited as far back as the third century BC when Theophrastus, Aristole’s protégé, listed them in the History of Plants. Like many fresh foods, cherries were first used for their medicinal qualities, not as a sweet treat we love today.

Michigan harvests 35,000 acres of tart cherry trees, which is almost 75% of those produced in the United States. It is no surprise thatTraverse City is called the Cherry Capital of the World and Eau Claire is known as the Cherry Pit Spitting Capital of the World.

Growing Season

Cherry trees can be seen blossoming over a three-week period in late May and early June.


Cherry trees grow well in most zones. Although if you want to get more technical, tart cherries thrive best in zones 4-9. Trees thrive in a sunny site with good air circulation and average to rich, well-drained soil.


A member of the Rosaceae family, cherries are related to apricots, peaches and plums, all of which contain fleshy fruit surrounding a hard drupe or pit. Cherries do not ripen further after harvest, so it is important to look for plump cherries with a supple, brightly colored skin. Harvest cherries with the stem on fruit.


Cherries are very perishable and bruise easily, so handling them with care is important.
Fresh: Store them in a shallow container to distribute weight and cover loosely with either plastic wrap or a clean cloth. This will keep them from drying out with maintaining air circulation. Cherries will remain fresh in the fridge between two and four days. Cherries should be rinsed in cool water prior to eating.
Frozen: Rinse and pit cherries before arranging them in a single layer and place in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag. They will keep for one year.


Cherries have recently come into “super fruit” status. These healthful gems, like many fruits, are low in cholesterol, fat and sodium while being a powerful packet of vitamin C and E, potassium, magnesium, iron and fiber. What makes the cherry stand out from the crowd, however, is its high antioxidant levels – more than grapes, oranges, plums, raspberries and strawberries combined! Research shows that cherries also hold melatonin, an antioxidant renowned for regulating sleep cycles. They are also said to ease inflammation, arthritic pain and even memory loss. Whether enjoyed fresh, frozen, juiced or dried, the cherry is one healthy super star.

Did You Know?

  • Thomas Jefferson grew cherries on his plantation at Monticello.
  • Cherry pits have been found in Stone Age caves.
  • The sweet cherry is believed to have originated in between the Black and Caspian Seas in Asia Minor
  • The English colonists brought cherries to North America in the 1600s.
  • There are more than 1,000 varieties of cherries in the United States, but fewer than 10 are produced commercially.
  • The world's heaviest cherry was grown in Italy in 2001, weighting 21.69 grams.
  • The internationally renowned Cherry Pit Spit at Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as an official competition.

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