Michigan’s Tart Cherries. So Proud.

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When the harvests are in full swing in Michigan, I’m like a proud parent busting at the seams. I want to show Michigan off as though she is mine, as though I did something to make her all that she is. I suppose I love my state the way some love their sports teams; they have a loyalty that won’t quit, and when their team wins, so do they.

There are many harvests that have Michigan written all over them: the morels, the whitefish. But there is nothing, move over Motor City, that expresses us better than our cherries.

And not just any cherries. Yes, we produce a mother lode of the sweet black cherries you find in your yogurt and we find along the roadside Up North right now. They’re yummy.

But it’s our tart cherry, the Montmorency and the Balaton, that is the one to watch. And eat, and drink.

These sour little nuggets are so important to Michigan that we have our universities (MSU and U of M) diving deep into all that is tart cherry research, and sharing their findings with growers and the rest of us. We even have our own Cherry Marketing Institute working hard to get the word out. How nice that they thought of me when it comes to cherry ambassadorship…I just returned from one of their “cherry immersion events” in Traverse City. (I know, I love what I do.)

That may sound over-the-top-cherry, but around here, it’s not so surprising. After all, when you fly into Traverse City (about 90 miles south of us here in Harbor Springs), you land at Cherry Capital Airport. There’s the National Cherry Festival there that attracts more than 500,000 people (I’d love to reign as cherry queen someday) and rich farmland dotted with cherry trees as far as the eye can see.

We, mind if I say “we”?, supply the nation with 75% of its tart cherries from growers like Cherry Bay Orchards, so when you eat one, you’ve likely just tasted our great state.

What I learned about tart cherries was a lot, and I felt like I was at parent-teacher conferences finding out what a genius my kid, my Michigan, is. Tart cherries are THE cherry for cherry pie, and so much more. They are powerhouses not just in flavor but in nutrition too, a Super Food that protects as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, aids muscle recovery in athletes, reduces bone loss as we age, is heart-healthy, and my favorite: helps you sleep better (tart cherry juice before bed anyone? Count me in.).

Tart cherries are typically found frozen for their delicate nature, at places like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Meijer and Walmart, but also check your local grocery.

All of this is great news, and if that’s not enough, tart cherries—and everything to do with their harvesting—are…


Here in Michigan, we love our pure beauty, our Pure Michigan. And like a good parent, we know when to just sit back and enjoy the wonder of it all.

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  1. Caroline Csak says:

    Remarkably (at least I think so), sour cherries grow brilliantly here in Alberta, Canada, where we’re unable to grow sweet cherries. I have an Evan’s cherry tree that produces ridiculous amounts of fruit. Perfectly ripe and ready for picking as I speak. As I’ve not been a fan of pitting them, I’ve tended to make jelly and syrup instead. But after trying sour cherry jam in France a couple of years ago, I tried making some last year to rave reviews – my 16 year old nephew declared it the best jam he’d ever eaten, and requested some for his next birthday. So I guess that’s what I’ll be doing in the next few days.

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      How neat to know you have beautiful sour/tart cherries in Alberta! And you have one IN YOUR YARD!!! Smart nephew you have, too…

  2. Sammy Pineau says:

    Ever since I read Five Quarters of the Orange by Joann Harris, I have wanted to make her grandmother’s cherry liqueur using sour cherries. I live in California and never see them, of course. If I fly up for the Cherry Festival. Will I be able to buy some? I need the pits still in.
    You are a good ambassador for Michigan, a beautiful state.

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Thank you Sammy! You can buy cherries during the festival, and you may be able to freeze them, pack them on dry ice, and get them back to California unharmed. You can buy frozen tart cherries online from Friske’s but the only ones I’ve seen are already pitted. I’ve always wanted to make cherry liqueur–your inspiration may have me getting after it finally this summer!

  3. Tammy says:

    Would like to order frozen tart cherries.
    Do you have a link to find size & prices?
    I live in South Carolina.

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Try this link to Friske’s Orchard in Charlevoix, Michigan Tammy.

  4. Emily says:

    Hi Maureen,
    I was visiting my aunt and uncle in Michigan when I was 14 yrs. old, a LONG time ago, and my aunt took me cherry picking at one of the orchards near her home. Such fun! She canned the cherries for me to take home and my grandmother made pies for me. I’ve never tasted anything so good since! I would love to buy a large quantity of the Michigan cherries fresh and would drive up there to get them ( we live in Georgia). Do you know of any orchards that would sell a large quantity to one individual and what is the best time to get them? Thank you so much!

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Hi Emily–wonderful memories you have! Tart cherries are in season typically mid- to late-July.There are many growers in the area — King’s Orchards, Farmer White’s, and Friske’s to name a few. You could contact them to see what’s possible! You can also order frozen tart cherries, which are wonderful and perfect for the pies, from Friske’s online.

  5. iryna says:

    How can I buy fresh sour cherries from you? I have not ate them for 10 years, because they dont sell t in CA. is there any way I can get them?

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Iryna, I don’t sell cherries! I’m sorry you haven’t seem them in California–I know the growers in Michigan are working to get the tart cherries out as broadly as possible!

  6. Robert Harra says:


    I live in Texas and was raised in Kansas, For years we would go home each summer and one of my tasks was to buy a 20 lb. can for frozen, pitted, sweetened cherries for my wife to make cherry pies for the coming year.. I have searched many time to find a distributer in the Dallas/Fort Worth area to again
    enjoy a real cherry pie and have failed. Can you give me any ideas?


    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Hello Bob! It’s a pity that tart cherries are not more widely available. Up North in Michigan, there are bags in the freezer section at the grocery store (Meijer, IGA). Here is an option to buy them frozen, for a pretty penny no doubt, from Northern Michigan. I will let you know what I find out about options near you.

  7. Susan says:

    I love Michigan’s sour cherries too, and I buy a 10 pound box of them dried from Meijer’s every year. Love adding them to anything that is deep and dark chocolate, and for my Xmas baking, or just eating out of hand. And as I have three autoimmune diseases, I love knowing that they are good for my inflammation. Yes, I have availed myself of all that interesting research about the benefits of sour cherries from those Michigan universities. We live in mid-north IN, and I have never had the opportunity to see cherries ripe on the trees; what a beautiful, beautiful sight your photos are. I love going north to Michigan because the light is so beautiful there; I love driving through the transition zone where the angle of light changes so dramatically. Beautiful state, so rich in beauty and natural resources, especially the fruits and flowers. Yum!

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Susan, you have expressed so well the quality of light up north! Thank you for your kind words and for sharing in the Michigan and cherry love!

  8. Geri Kalush Conklin says:

    Janet and Elaine (my sisters) are so right, we had an abundance of tart cherries in our back yard and pitting them was (sorry) the pits. I’ll never forget being on a roll and suddenly finding a little worm in the middle of one however that quickly was forgotten at the first bit of those delicious pies our mom made. I think I’ll go buy some cherries, thanks for the inspiration.

  9. Jerry Wakeen says:

    A wealth of information, thanks.
    My wife always talks about not being able to get tart cherries for pies, apparently we are too far south (Maryland).
    BUT two of my cousins from Wausau, Wisconsin (originally) have mentioned tart cherries are good for gout.
    I finally believed them and now buy capsules of tart cherries. It seems to work but when I had doubts about their effectiveness, after about 6 months, I started taking two a day. After a while, and I am not sure of this, I got to itching (ears, waist line, lightly in other places) and blamed it on the double dose of tart cherry capsules. I stopped for a while and am now back on one a day. I think it works! Of course you mentioned anti-inflammatory properties, thanks again for the unusual topic.
    best, Jerry

  10. Elaine Archer says:

    Brings back memories of the Montmorency Cherry trees in our back yard, the little beat up cherry pitter and mom’s luscious cherry pies. No luck growing sour cherry trees in southern Cal, even though they sell them here. What’s up with that??

  11. Neva Cochran says:

    Great post Maureen! Wonderful meeting you last week.

  12. marla says:

    Maureen, I was amazing to meet you in this trip!! Michigan is so very beautiful. Hopefully we can meet up again really soon 🙂 Lovely post!

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Marla, thank you! It was so nice sharing a little slice of Michigan with you–I love how we both chucked the city for these pristine places. I’ll look forward to next time…

  13. Terri Kuebler says:

    I miss those cherries! I remember them so well. I will be home in Petoskey to see my family in September but, I think that’s too late for the great cherries…..

  14. Joan Aboud-Bedard says:

    You are so lucky to have such beautiful, healthy-looking tart cherries. It must be the climate or the zone- are you zone 5 or 6? I have tried to grow Montmorency cherry trees for the last 15 years but have lost my oldest tree to a mold that wraps itself around the branches that have to be cut off and BURNED! Eventually the tree has to be cut down. No more cherry pie for me! There is nothing that will save them since pesticides are not permitted and this disease affects cherry and plum trees. Enjoy your Michigan cherries.

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Joan, you are a true Lebanese growing your own cherry trees! We are in zone 5 here. The frozen tarts are really good though–worth a try for your cherry pie!

      1. Janet Kalush Moore says:

        Joan, I agree with Maureen. Frozen are not all bad….
        My mom had 2 Montmorency Cherry trees and we had to get up before the birds to pick the ripe cherries. We pitted for a whole day…made pies and froze them unbaked. They lasted us all year…yummmm.

        1. Joan Aboud-Bedard says:

          Thanks for the advice, Maureen and Janet. I wish I had frozen cherries- I would have to go to a Lebanese grocery store in Montreal – a 10 hour drive- to get them. I still have some frozen from last year which I am hoarding for my next pie! I presume, Maureen that you will be posting a recipe for your cherry pie soon. Can’t wait to compare notes!

  15. Janet Kalush Moore says:

    Somehow I never have found Tart/Sour Cherries at any of the Cherry stands. I am missing my tart cherry pie. Maybe there will be some at the Farmers Market. Do you know where I can find fresh tart cherries? Other than driving to Traverse City. Love this post Maureen…..go Michigan! (as in the state..now the University) Hahaha!

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      They don’t sell the tart cherries at the stands, but they should! Bill’s Farm Market has them, and there are frozen tarts at Meijer.