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Tart Cherry Industry - continued
The red tart cherry, Prunus cerasus, is a perennial tree fruit related to the plum, peach, apricot, almond, and numerous other species of the north temperate zone. It is grown commercially for its tart and juicy fruit, which is primarily used in baking and cooking. Fully ripened tart cherries may be eaten raw, but are too acid for many palates. The raw fruit stores poorly and its shelf life is too short for the fresh-market trade.

Tart cherries are also known by other names. They are at times called “sour cherries” due to their sour flavor. They are also referred to as “pie cherries” because they are commonly used in baking, or “red cherries” because of their bright red color.

Michigan produces 70-80 percent of the tart cherries grown in the United States. Other states having commercial acreages include Colorado, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin. The annual farm value of the U.S. tart cherry crop averaged $44 million between 1985 and 1995. The value of the crop was at a low of $19 million during the 1995 crop year, and at a peak of $88 million in the 1991 crop year.

The Tart Cherry Tree - Varieties
There are hundreds of named tart cherry cultivars. Only the Montmorency cultivar, however, is of economic importance in the U.S. currently. Montmorency originated in the Montmorency Valley of France during the 17th century and was likely introduced into America in the late 1700s or early 1800s. Its fruit is about three-fourths of an inch in diameter and has a roundish-oblate (slightly compressed) shape. Its skin color ranges from bright red when first ripe to dark red when fully ripe. The flesh has a pale yellow color with a reddish tinge, and the juice has a light pink color and a sprightly flavor.

The Montmorency fruit ripens during July in most areas, with harvest extending into August in the more northern regions. Montmorency’s firm flesh and long harvest season make it wellsuited for processing. Virtually all of the commercial U.S. acreage is planted to the Montmorency variety.

Two Hungarian varieties are currently being produced on a trial basis in several states. One of these, referred to in the Michigan area as Balaton, reportedly "has the potential to be the first significant new cultivar planted in the United States since the introduction of Montmorency" (Nugent). Balaton blooms several days after Montmorency, reducing the likelihood of crop failure due to a late spring frost destroying the young fruit buds. Central Michigan reportedly had only about one-third its normal Montmorency crop in 1996 because of freeze damage to the fruit buds on May 13. The Balaton trees in that area, however, reportedly were loaded with cherries as they bloomed later than the Montmorency cultivar, escaping damage (Danilovich).

Like Montmorency, Balaton produces an abundant crop of firm fruit which processes well. There remains a question, however, about its market acceptance. Balaton’s flesh and juice have a red color, whereas Montmorency has a light-colored flesh and juice. Unlike Montmorency, whose fruit retains a bright red color when cooked, Balaton fruit turns dark and may not be desired by U.S. consumers, who are better acquainted with a bright red cherry.

Currently, there are only a handful of bearing-age Balaton trees in the United States, but the acreage of this variety is expected to increase. Nevertheless, Montmorency will continue being the dominant variety for many years because the trees currently in the ground have many years of prime fruit-bearing life remaining.

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Copyright 2005
updated- January 29th, 2005

 Apple Journal
Tens of thousands of us suffer from chronic and often debilitating pain. Many strategies and products have emerged promising relief. Sorting through the claims and counter-claims is not easy.

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