Blessing of the Blossoms: 2014 Michigander Spotlight

Did you know that Michigan produces 70-75 percent of the tart cherries grown in the United States? With 3.8 million tart cherry trees, the sandy soil on the shores of Lake Michigan allows for cherry production to thrive in Northern Michigan. Dubbed “The Cherry Capital of the World”, Traverse City harvests both tart and sweet cherries, which are used for pies, preserves, jellies, juice, dried fruit and other products.

Cherry production began with missionary Peter Dougherty in the mid-1800s, when he planted cherry trees on Old Mission Peninsula near Traverse City. Cherry orchards soon prospered and by the 1900s, processing factories were built to outsource cherries to Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee. In 1998, 228.5 million pounds of Michigan tart cherries went to processors to be sold throughout the United States!

ImageSource: Traverse City True North Blog 

In 1924, a spring celebration titled Blessing of the Blossoms first celebrated the region’s love for cherries. As the years have passed, the festival became the National Cherry Festival, held every July in Traverse City.

The countryside of Northern Michigan is sprinkled with cherry stands, markets and orchards for locals and visitors to satisfy their cherry cravings. Bursting with flavor, cherries are a favorite of local eateries in Traverse City. Cherry pies offer up a little sweet and a little tart with each bite, while dried cherries put a tasty twist on salads, baked goods, and even dishes featuring chicken and pork. A Leelanau County butcher put a healthy twist on the traditional beef burger, creating a hamburger/cherry mix that is a local favorite.

The 23rd annual Michigander route takes riders through Traverse City and the TART Trail. The cherry season will be in full swing—you won’t want to miss it!

Do you love cherries? Sound off below with your favorite cherry recipe!


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