Tart & sweet cherry harvest underway

Tart Cherries by Andrew McFarlaneThe Traverse City Record-Eagle reports that the cherry harvest seems to be one to two weeks ahead of normal this season as hot weather accelerated the process across the region according to Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station Director Nikki Rothwell:

“The heat just pushed everything along,” Rothwell said.

In addition to ripening the fruit faster, not being able to apply an agent to loosen the fruit from the tree during a stretch of weather in the 90s may condense the separation between sweet and tart cherry harvest. Some area farmers are harvesting tart cherries before sweets, which is atypical.

“There seems to be more of an overlap than normal,” Rothwell said. “Now I think we’re going to be harvesting tart and sweet cherries at the same time.”

Ben LaCross, owner of Leelanau Fruit, began tart cherry harvest on Friday morning. He farms several hundred acres — about two-thirds of which are tart cherries harvested with shakers — in Leelanau County.

“There’s a larger crop of sweet cherries, which take longer to ripen,” LaCross said. “And there’s a lighter crop of tart cherries, which take less time to ripen. Those two varieties, the harvest is going to run right into each other.”

Read more in the Record-Eagle.