tart cherries ripen on the branchCherry Festival is Over, but the Cherry Season Has Just Begun


Local cherries are the gems of the northern Michigan summer. Each year we anxiously await the arrival of the ruby fruit that brings visitors to the area, and keeps many of our businesses running.



Farm report

While growers expect a smaller harvest of tarts, the sweets are shaping up nicely, weather dependent of course. It was a bit of a rocky spring with concerns over frost and cool weather which made pollination a challenge. The National Agricultural Statistics Service estimates a tart cherry harvest of 135 million pounds in Michigan.

For the sweets, it’s all about Mother Nature, and how much rain she decides to send our way. During the harvest rain is unwelcome since it causes the fruit to crack. Northern Michigan is responsible for 90 percent of the state’s sweet cherry production.


Cherry Fun Facts

  • Michigan grows 75 percent of the US crop of tart cherries, and about 20 percent of sweet cherries
  • There are close to 7000 cherries on the average tart cherry tree, enough for 28 pies
  • The World Record for spitting a cherry pit is now 100 feet 4 inches, held by “young gun” Krauss, son of 10 time record holder “pellet gun” Krause
  • It takes 100 cherries to produce an 8 oz. glass of cherry juice
  • Ease arthritis pain and inflammation naturally with cherry juice, thanks to the anthocyanins, which give tart cherries their color
  • Michigan cherry wine is made primarily from Montmorency cherries
  • Peninsula Cellars is the only area winery to produce a white cherry wine, made from the Emperor Francis cherry


Leelanau michigan cherry treesPick up a Pound

If you’re looking to pick up some fresh cherries on your visit up north there are plenty of options. A drive along the Old Mission or Leelanau Peninsula will offer several roadside opportunities to buy direct from the grower. And you can’t beat the scenic views along the way.

For those of you who would rather grab and go, The Cherry Stop in downtown Traverse City has everything you could ever need. Fresh cherries are available on site, and they’ll even ship if you’re craving a taste of Michigan from far away. There are also dried cherries which make great snacks, frozen cherries for pies, and all sorts of products made from the healthy fruit we all love.

But some of my favorite childhood memories are from roaming the U-Pick farms. We’d lug around our galvanized buckets and climb the rickety old wooden ladders to carefully select the largest, juiciest, ripest cherries. When the buckets were full, or too heavy to carry, we’d know it was time to go home. It took a long swim in the lake to get rid of the purple stained fingers, but it was worth the memories.

For a list of local U-Pick farms, check out LocalDifference.org


Tips and Tricks

  • Cherries with the stems attached will stay fresh longer
  • To remove cherry stains from fingers and clothing try a little lemon juice, and rinse with water
  • For an inexpensive cherry pit remover try placing a metal pastry tip on your finger and pushing them out. A bobby pin or a bent paper clip can be used to scoop out the pit and only leaves one hole.


Michigan tart cherries up closeFor more information on cherries check out these local links to related stories:

TV 7&4

Taste the Local Difference

Absolute Michigan

The Cherry Marketing Institute