Happy National Cherry Day

Today is National Cherry Day.

Cherries are a stone fruit from the genusĀ Prunus, which includes plums, peaches, nectarines, apricots and almonds. Pits from the cherries have been found in Stone Age caves in Europe and were enjoyed by the Greeks and Romans. Immigrants from Europe introduced cherries to the USA in the 1600s and commercial cherry production began in the mid 1800’s in the USA.

All around the world cherries are grown and the top ten countries producing cherries are Iran, the U.S.A., Turkey, Italy, Germany, Spain, Lebanon, Rumania, France and the Russian Federation.

Cherries are a great health food. Rich in vitamin C and B vitamins they are also a good source of fiber. Also rich in anti-oxidants many claim they help control inflammation and help with arthritis.

Michigan is the number one state producing tart cherries and approximately 94% of cherries consumed in the USA are grown in Michigan. The cherry trees began to bloom in May and this spring my husband and I drove to northern Michigan to enjoy the beautiful blossoms.

Cherry harvest time starts in mid-July and lasts through mid-August.

Every July Traverse City hosts a Cherry Festival which draws as much as 500,000 visitors from all around the world. This tradition began in 1925. President Herbert Hoover attended in 1929 and President Gerald Ford served as grand marshal of the parade in 1975.

It’s amazing the products offered by cherry producers.

So get out your cookbooks and made a delicious cherry pie in celebration of this great healthy fruit!

Old Mission Peninsula – A Vision of Cherry Blossoms!

With the easing of restrictions in our state and since we have received both doses of the vaccine for Covid, we took a trip north to Traverse City, Michigan. Grand Traverse Bay created by the glaciers is a beautiful bay 32 miles long and 10 miles wide. In the middle of this bay the glaciers left a 19-mile long peninsula. This area is filled with beautiful small hills and rich, fertile soil. The moderate climate is ideal for farming.

Long before the white man came this peninsula was the home of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. There they raised corn, pumpkins, beans and potatoes. They also had planted apple trees.

In 1836 the tribes made a treaty with the USA in which they surrendered much of their land in this area. In return the USA agreed to provide the Indians with missions, schools, and Indian reservations.

The Presbyterian Church sent Reverend Peter Dougherty to the region in 1839 and he established a church and a school for the tribes still living there. The federal government paid the Presbyterian Mission Board $3,000 to maintain the mission. In 1842 he built his home which is believed to be the first frame home north of Grand Rapids in Michigan.

This is a replica of the original mission church. Originally built directly on the Bay it was moved up a hill to be safer from the water.

Solon Rushmore bought the home from Dougherty in 1861. For approximately 100 years it remained in the Rushmore family and was at one point turned into an inn.

Over the next ten years more and more European settlers came to the peninsula. In 1852, Dougherty and the tribes decided to move across the West Grand Traverse Bay to an existing Native American village. Situated on Leelanau Peninsula, this became the modern city of Omena. Calling this place “New Mission” the community they left became “Old Mission.”

During his time there Dougherty planted cherry trees. It quickly became clear that this was an ideal place for the orchards and cherry trees began to be planted all over the peninsula and the surrounding area. Lake Michigan moderates the Arctic winds in the winter and cools the orchards in the summer.

Today the whole area – both the Old Mission Pennisula and the Leelanau Peninsula are beautiful every spring as the many cherry trees produce their beautiful blooms.

In July Traverse City hosts a Cherry Festival. The population is just over 15,000 but during the Festival the city greets over 500,000 visitors from around the world.

While we would avoid the city in July (too many people for this old couple) visiting it in May when the trees began to bloom was a trip worth taking.