Northwest Montana is known for its cherry production. The unique, warm climate around Flathead Lake allows sweet cherries to thrive. Mid-July to Mid-August is peak cherry season, so now is the time to find and enjoy these delicious fruits. You can find cherries at farmers markets and farm stands around Flathead Lake.
Cherry trees are very susceptible to a late spring frost, so if you’re interested in planting your own cherry trees, wait until mid-May or June. They like lots of sunlight and soil that drains well. Additionally, these trees should be pruned in late winter to encourage new growth in the spring and remove any dead or overcrowded branches. Most cherry trees will begin bearing fruit in their fourth year, although dwarf cherry trees can begin to bear fruit earlier. A healthy cherry tree can yield 30 to 50 quarts of cherries each year! Sweet cherries can be eaten right away, while tart cherries are usually used in baking, preserving and drying–although plenty of people eat them right off the trees, too!
Cherries are not just delicious, they’re also good for you! Cherries are an excellent source of fiber and potassium. Vitamin C and polyphenols, which are also found in cherries, both have antioxidant properties that help prevent a variety of chronic illnesses and reduce inflammation. Tart cherries contain melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep schedules and promotes healthier sleep. Tart cherries and tart cherry juice have also shown to help lower total cholesterol. Cherries are often dried or frozen, so you can get these health benefits year round.
There are hundreds of ways to use cherries in cooking and baking!
You can start simple with an easy cherry jam that’s great on toast or muffins, or as a topping for yogurt or ice cream.
If you have a sweet tooth or love to bake, try this recipe for cherry pie.
A spiced cherry chutney with allspice, cardamom and ginger is excellent on a variety of meats or as a spread for a charcuterie board!
And don’t forget, dried cherries are an excellent substitute for raisins in baked goods or trail mix!
How will you celebrate cherry season this year?
Thanks to our friends at Taste the Local Difference in Michigan for sharing this blog post.
About the author: Elizabeth Pearce is the Operations Assistant at Taste the Local Difference and is based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. When she worked on a farm, cherries were her favorite thing to harvest! Send questions to [email protected].