Where did cherries come from?
Sweet cherries were likely transported to Europe by birds from Asia Minor, in the rich plains between the Black and Caspian Seas. The Greeks were the first to cultivate cherries, and the ROs continued to increase and expand production. Cherries arrived in the United States with English colonists in 1629 and were later introduced to California by Spanish missionaries. Sweet cherries were transported west by pioneers and fur traders in the 1800s to major production areas in Washington, Oregon, and California. California is currently the country’s second-largest producer, after only Washington. Harvest in California begins in mid-April and lasts until early to mid-June.
How are cherries grown and harvested?
Commercially grown cherries are grafted to a rootstock and planted in orchards in straight lines. Farmers plant roughly 100 trees per acre on average. Because cherry trees do not self-pollinate, each orchard must have two varieties of cherries planted in a 9 to 1 ratio. The principal pollinators are honey bees. It takes about 6 years for an orchard to produce its first major crop after it is planted. California cherries for the fresh market are harvested by hand, leaving the stems, or pedicels, intact. They are harvested at the firm-mature stage, and the color change is traditionally used to determine when they are ready to be harvested.
Fresh cherries have a very short shelf life and must be handled with care to avoid bruising. When cherries are picked from the trees, they are transported to a packing facility where they are immediately chilled using chilled water — a process known as hydro cooling. They are then sorted by size and color before being packed into boxes to be shipped to markets all over the world. Cherries are particularly vulnerable to rain as they approach harvest. As a result, the volume of each year’s crop in California growing areas might vary depending on spring weather.
In the video below, we’ll see how cherries are harvested by hand and machine, as well as how cherries are sorted and packaged in a factory.
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Video resource: Noal Farm