When it comes to cherries, there’s more than meets the eye. Here are some fun facts about cherries we bet you didn’t know:
The United States leads the world in sweet cherry production. Sweet cherries are primarily grown in California, Oregon and Washington. Michigan is among the top four producers, harvesting about 20 percent of the crop each year.
The total U.S. production of sweet cherries is about 370 million pounds. Most of the sweet cherries are sold fresh during the summertime. However, about 175 million pounds are frozen or canned, or used to produce Maraschino or GLACE’ cherries.
Sweet cherries are harvested about two months after the trees have blossomed, which can be anytime between late May and early August in the West and most generally during July in the Midwest.
Cherry trees bear fruit for about 25 years, but some trees are more than 50 years old.
Cherry trees begin producing fruit about five years after being planted. Full fruit bearing capacity is reached in 10 to 15 years. A fully mature cherry tree is capable of producing more than 100 pounds of fruit in a season.
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).
Most varieties of sweet cherries can be used to produce Maraschino cherries, including Bings, Lamberts, Vans, Rainiers, Golds, Royal Annes and Napoleons. However, the Napoleons, Rainers and the Royal Annes are most often used for Maraschino.
There are many uses for Maraschino cherries. As a garnish they add eye appeal to beverages, desserts, ice cream, salads and other dishes. As an ingredient their bright color and flavor enhance the taste of many products and are proven to improve profitability.
Glacé cherries are near candy consistency due to an extra two weeks of processing. They are not only a perfect addition to the traditional fruitcake, but are ideal for cake decorations and as an ingredient in cookies, breads and other baked specialties.
Harvesting occurs about two months after the trees have blossomed, which can be anytime between May and July in the West and usually during July in the Midwest.
The cherries used to produce Maraschino cherries are grown primarily in Michigan, Oregon and Washington.
Most people familiar with red and green Maraschinos but they can be produced in custom colors and flavors. Red Maraschino cherries are tinted with the common food coloring Red No. 40, and the green maraschino with Yellow No. 5 and Blue No. 1.
The Maraschino cherry dates back several centuries to the coastal regions of Yugoslavia and northern Italy where a liqueur was manufactured from a local cherry called the “Marasca”.
Maraschino cherries and glacé fruits were first imported to the United States in the 1890’s as a delicacy to be used in the country’s finest restaurants and hotels. In 1896 manufacturers began experimenting, using a domestic sweet cherry call the Royal Anne. Less liqueur was used in processing, and almond oil was substituted for the liqueur. Finally, the liqueur was eliminated altogether. By 1920, the American maraschino cherry was so popular that it had replaced the foreign variety in the United States. The modern-day Maraschino cherry is characterized by its bright, uniform color and fruity cherry flavor with a hint of almond.
The ultimate celebration of cherries is the National Cherry Festival. It’s held every year in July in the “Cherry Capital of the World” – Traverse City, Michigan. This festival originated from a spring ceremony known as the “Blessing of the Blossoms.” Thousands of visitors come from all over the world to celebrate the harvest and, of course, eat cherries.