Unlike sweet cherries, America’s tart cherries are too fragile to ship very far, so most people never get to taste a fresh one.They’re typically frozen, then baked into that iconic American dessert, the cherry pie — and cherry pies aren’t as popular as they used to be.
Yet the humble sour cherry is experiencing an unlikely renaissance — and the best may be yet to come….
[L]ast year was a disaster, perhaps the worst in memory. An early spring caused the trees to blossom, and then, on March 23, a blast of cold air arrived.
Mike Van Agtmael, a cherry farmer in the town of Hart, stayed up all night, watching the thermometer. “It got to about 3:30 a.m., and the temperature started dropping. It didn’t matter what we did, it just kept dropping and dropping,” he says.
The blossoms froze. The crop was ruined.
Now, there’s a reason why all those trees bloomed and froze in unison. The vast majority of tart cherry trees in the U.S. are genetically identical.
But they don’t have to be. And this is where we get to the second part of the tart cherry renaissance.