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Fast facts About Michigan Tart Cherries
The leading producer of tart cherries
is Michigan, producing 70 to 75 percent of the crop each year. Utah grows
about 8 percent of the crop; New York, about 5 percent; Wisconsin, 4 percent.
Washington, Oregon and Pennsylvania also have commercial crops of tart cherries.
The amount of tart cherries produced
each year varies, depending on a number of factors, including the age
of the trees and weather conditions. Generally, Michigan produces 200
to 250 million pounds of tart cherries; the U.S. crop is 275 to 350 million
The major variety of tart cherry grown
in the United States is the Montmorency. It has been cultivated in the
United States for more than a century because the fruit is excellent for
pies, preserves, jellies, juice and other products.
Tart cherries, which are sometimes
called pie cherries or sour cherries, are seldom sold fresh; they generally
are canned or frozen shortly after harvesting for use in products throughout
Sweet cherries primarily are grown
in the Pacific Coast states, but Michigan joins the top four producers,
harvesting about 20 percent of the crop each year. Michigan produces about
50 million pounds of sweet cherries. The total U.S. production of sweet
cherries is about 370 million pounds; about 175 million pounds of that
is processed and are packed as frozen or canned sweet cherries or as maraschino
or glacé cherries.
The most famous sweet cherry variety
is the Bing cherry. However, there are more than 1,000 varieties of sweet
cherries. Bing cherries are a dark red/burgundy color. there also are
light sweet cherry varieties, such as Rainier and Queen Anne.
although a cherry tree can grow almost
anywhere, the quantity and quality of its fruit depend on specific climatic
conditions. For example, in Michigan, the orchards are concentrated along
Lake Michigan, where the lake tempers the winter winds and cools the orchards
Both tart and sweet cherries ripen
in July; the third week of July is usually the peak of the harvest.
There are about 7,000 cherries on
an average tart cherry tree (the number varies depending on the age of
the tree, weather and growing conditions), and it takes about 250 cherries
to make a cherry pie, so each tree potentially could produce enough cherries
for 28 pies.
February is National Cherry Month.
Consumers are eager to buy cherry products in February to help celebrate
a variety of special days during the month, including Presidents' Day,
Valentine's Day and Paczki Day, (Fat Tuesday).
The average U.S. citizen consumes
about one pound of tart cherries per year. That is more than 260 million
pounds per year.
Tart cherries have a bright red color and tangy taste. They are often used in desserts and are sometimes called sour cherries or pie cherries. Montmorency is the only variety of tart cherry grown commercially in the U.S. (Sweet cherries have a dark red/burgundy color and are most often used fresh; there are numerous varieties of sweet cherries.)
Tart cherries generally bloom in May and are harvested in July. Tart cherries are seldom sold fresh, although a few farm markets offer them fresh during the harvest season.
Tart cherries are difficult to ship because the color is affected by heat and light -- they will turn brown or discolor when exposed even to the light in a refrigerator.
Cherries from Chile have a bright red color, even though they are sweet cherries. These are available fresh in the U.S. usually during December and sometimes January.
Europe harvests large quantities of tart cherries, but these are not imported fresh into the U.S. The European harvest season is similar to the U.S.
During much of the year, there are no fresh tart (or sweet) cherries available anywhere in the world