Friday, July 27, 2012

It's cherry picking time in Wisconsin

            I always thought cherries came in cute little glass jars, swimming in thick syrup so you can easily add them to ice cream and cocktails. 
             Then I visited Door County, Wisconsin, the largest cherry producing region in the state, and sampled tart red cherry juice at a tour at Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Winery & Market in Fish Creek. The orchard is run by the family’s fourth generation and visitors can tour the orchards every season, including winter, sample their fruits and fruit products, and enjoy tastings from their winery and cider mill. 
            My favorite was the tart cherry juice, a surprisingly delicious drink that’s packed full of antioxidants. In fact, the owners showed me a chart comparing all fruits with cherries at No. 1. The next best fruit — blueberries — had been left far behind in the cherry’s dust.
            The 2012 cherry harvest season is now wrapping up, but the press release in my email this morning said fresh cherries are still available at local roadside markets and orchards. The harvest was lower than usual this year because of “unfavorable spring weather conditions,” but local cherry growers are predicting a harvest of more than 700,000 pounds of cherries, according to Terry Sorenson, president of the Wisconsin Cherry Growers, Inc. 
            Can you taste those cherry pies now?
            I recommend visiting soon to sample those scrumptious cherries — at Lautenach’s for instance, fresh cherries are available in season only. Or wait a month or two, sample that incredibly healthy cherry juice or cider while enjoying a hay ride through the orchards in autumn or visit during the Fall Harvest Festival Sept. 22, 2012. They offer sleigh rides too! Whenever you visit, you’re in for a treat. For information, visit
          For a good book, try "Cherries Galore" cookbook by Jean Hill and Jody Littler of Fruitful Enterprises. The mother-daughter team grew up in the orchard business in Sister Bay and their cookbook offers cherry recipes that go beyond dessert.