U.S. Montmorency Tart Cherry Production
Cherries are shaken off the tree onto a canvas umbrella and then into large tanks containing 48 degree water. These tanks hold 1,000 pounds of cherries and 1,000 pounds of water.
The fruit remains in the tanks for six to eight hours, while being constantly flushed with cold water to remove the field heat and cool the fruit. The cherries are then taken to nearby processing facilities where the cherries are pitted and either canned, frozen, or made into juice.
At the processing plant the cherries are put in water and travel through the plant. The cherries are washed, cleaned, sorted and finally pitted. The last step is freezing or canning the cherries to preserve them until they are sold.
Cherry growers initiate and support activities designed to improve cherry production using the best management practices. They are extremely cautious in their approach to reduce pesticide use and risk. The industry adopted Integrated Pest Management practices (IPM) to reduce the risk to growers and the environment, and to insure that consumers receive wholesome fruit.
The United States produces 275-300 million pounds of tart cherries each year. The amount of tart cherries produced varies, depending on a number of factors, including the age of the trees and weather conditions.
Michigan produces about 75% of the total United States tart cherry crop. Utah grows about 8%, New York 5% and Wisconsin 4%. There are also tart cherries grown in Washington, Oregon and Pennsylvania.
98% of the tart cherries grown in the United States are the Montmorency variety.
Although a cherry tree can grow almost anywhere, the quantity and quality of its fruit depends on specific climatic conditions. Michigan's tart cherry orchards are concentrated along Lake Michigan, where the lake tempers the winter winds and cools the orchards in summer. In the spring around Mother's Day cherry trees are full of blossoms. The pedals fall and then tiny green cherries grow where the blossoms once were. The green cherries slowly turn red as they ripen.