When the harvests are in full swing in Michigan, I’m like a proud parent busting at the seams. I want to show Michigan off as though she is mine, as though I did something to make her all that she is. I suppose I love my state the way some love their sports teams; they have a loyalty that won’t quit, and when their team wins, so do they.
And not just any cherries. Yes, we produce a mother lode of the sweet black cherries you find in your yogurt and we find along the roadside Up North right now. They’re yummy.
But it’s our tart cherry, the Montmorency and the Balaton, that is the one to watch. And eat, and drink.
These sour little nuggets are so important to Michigan that we have our universities (MSU and U of M) diving deep into all that is tart cherry research, and sharing their findings with growers and the rest of us. We even have our own Cherry Marketing Institute working hard to get the word out. How nice that they thought of me when it comes to cherry ambassadorship…I just returned from one of their “cherry immersion events” in Traverse City. (I know, I love what I do.)
That may sound over-the-top-cherry, but around here, it’s not so surprising. After all, when you fly into Traverse City (about 90 miles south of us here in Harbor Springs), you land at Cherry Capital Airport. There’s the National Cherry Festival there that attracts more than 500,000 people (I’d love to reign as cherry queen someday) and rich farmland dotted with cherry trees as far as the eye can see.
We, mind if I say “we”?, supply the nation with 75% of its tart cherries from growers like Cherry Bay Orchards, so when you eat one, you’ve likely just tasted our great state.
What I learned about tart cherries was a lot, and I felt like I was at parent-teacher conferences finding out what a genius my kid, my Michigan, is. Tart cherries are THE cherry for cherry pie, and so much more. They are powerhouses not just in flavor but in nutrition too, a Super Food that protects as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, aids muscle recovery in athletes, reduces bone loss as we age, is heart-healthy, and my favorite: helps you sleep better (tart cherry juice before bed anyone? Count me in.).
Tart cherries are typically found frozen for their delicate nature, at places like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Meijer and Walmart, but also check your local grocery.
All of this is great news, and if that’s not enough, tart cherries—and everything to do with their harvesting—are…
Here in Michigan, we love our pure beauty, our Pure Michigan. And like a good parent, we know when to just sit back and enjoy the wonder of it all.