Every harvest season, thousands of people flock to Northern Michigan. The reason is the Montmorency tart cherry. The cherry growing region of Northern Michigan is located in the Traverse Bay area of Michigan. This region grows over 70% of all tart cherries in the United States and also have earned the nickname of the “Traverse Bay Farms” region due to the fact that a number of farms area located in this region.
The area is well-known for U-pick cherry orchards, the National Cherry Festival and countless farm stands selling the precious fruit along the roadside.
The National Cherry Festival is known for all things cherry including pie eating, cherry pit spitting and they even crown the National Cherry Queen. This nationally recognized event occurs the first week of July annually. The National Cherry Festival is the place where you can enjoy countless samples of all things cherry including:
In addition to sampling great cherry-based products, many cherry farms also provide tours. You are able to learn how the cherry is grown and harvested. It is unlike any other harvest process. Once you see how the cherry is harvested, you’ll know exactly what I mean. Here is a step-by-step video fully explaining how the tart cherry is actually harvested.
The Cherry Harvest Season
The cherry harvest usually is the first few weeks of July. However, depending on the weather, it could be as early as late June of the third week of July. As you can see from the video, harvesting the cherries is both emotionally and physically challenging. The cherry farmers are usually on edge until the cherries are fully harvested. The reason is if the area is hit with a cold weather this could simply kill the cherries on the branches. The happened a few years back in 2011 and reduced the yield to only about 20%. This meant the annual 275 million ton crop was reduced to about 55 million tons. In 2010, high winds and severe storms literally blew off the cherry blossoms from the branches. This also devastated the crops of 2010. This are only a few reasons why cherry farmers holds their breathe until the last cherry is harvested.
The Annual Lifecycle of the Cherry
The cherry trees remain dormant during the cold winter months. This cold temperatures during the long Northern Michigan winter helps to keep the trees healthy. In addition, the high snowfall, usually 20+ feet of annual snow fall, also help to keep the trees warm during the winter months. The reason is sonw itself is a good insulator. Snow actually helps to prevent the ground from freezing and killing the cherry trees.
Once the snow melts and the temperatures being to rise this brings the tree out of their slumber and helps to wake them up for another year of cherry production. As the trees start to produce buds during the spring time the temperatures are getting warmer both during the night and day. Once the blossoms burst from the bud, this is one of the most beautiful times of the year in the orchards.
A lot of people may not realize, but each blossom turns into a cherry. The average cherry tree has about 7,000 blossoms so once the cherries appear they can actually weigh down the branches. During bumper crop years, the weight of the cherries can actually break the limbs of the trees.
So the next time you’re looking for something fun to do in Michigan, check out the National Cherry Festival and the cherry harvest season. In fact, you can even enjoy some U-pick cherries are the local orchards. You’ll enjoy spending time with the family as you fill your bucket full of Michigan-grown Montmorency tart cherry cherries.
In addition the fresh fruit, you can also find tart cherry juice concentrate, cherry salsa, preserves, jams jellies and even some cherry wine. Best of all you can also order and have cherry products shipped to your home or office.
This means when you leave Northern Michigan, you won’t have to worry about out of cherries, fresh or cherry-based products. The fresh cherries usually start shipping in Mid-July until Mid-August. Since this fruit is perishable, you’ll need to either freeze them once your receive them or immediately make them into a recipe like a cherry pie, jam, jelly or preserves. You can also make your very own cherry juice with them too. Check out this video on how to make cherry juice at home.