Monday, June 30, 2008

Tart Cherries

The tables at the Sunday farmers market were groaning with early fruits and berries, especially cherries. Here's the cherry display at the Dupont Circle market.

Normally we would be out picking our own tart cherries--15 pounds or more to make pies and cobblers and freeze for the rest of the year. But somehow we haven't been motivated to drive to the orchard, especially after I discovered Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm in Eau Claire, Michigan.

Tree-Mendus Farm, a family run operation going back three generations, grows cherries, peaches and apples, including more than 200 varieties of heirloom apples. They will ship a 10-pound container of frozen tart cherries, already pitted and cleaned, for $33 (plus shipping). I'm trying to decide how that stacks up against driving 30 miles each way to our favorite tart cherry picking site--Butler's Orchard in Germantown, Maryland.

We love hanging out at the orchard, but at current rates, the cost of gas comes to more than $8 plus all the CO2 emissions and the time spent pitting the cherries. Before you know it, you've spent the better part of a day on cherries, but then we have a year's worth of tart cherries all bagged in convenient pie-portion packages.

Could it really be more environmentally friendly (cheaper, even) to have our tart cherries shipped from Michigan? Or is it more important to support our local farm, even if it means burning all that gas?


el said...

Well, you could look at it this way: Michigan needs your money. With the change in annual worker visas, orchards out here are chopping down trees left and right because they can't get enough migrants (or regular people) to pick them. It is really sad, driving past a field of tree stumps and branches, especially if they were old trees. Tree-mendous has at least figured out they can ship the fruit they have.

Laura said...

I don't think there's anything wrong with supporting a farmer in MI if that's what makes sense for you.

Last year I picked all my own cherries and pitted them. This year we don't have our own trees with good fruit so I would have to drive 90 miles each way to go pick. Not gonna happen. I've been buying them from the organic farmer at the market and pitting them for the freezer. My nail beds are permanently purple.

Given the choice - I'd probably buy them pre-pitted for pies...

Christine said...

If you were to organize your friends into one BIG order, wouldn't that help mitigate the unpleasant aspects of shipping? I haven't thought that one through, but it seems like the "co-op" system could help justify supporting a great, albeit distant, farm.

Anonymous said...

As a Michigander myself, there are no finer cherries than from here. The convenience of pitted and frozen cherries is great, but does your personal footprint outweigh the footprint of your cherries being picked, processed and shipped from Michigan?

Pattie said...

Ed: David of the Clothesline just posted about this regarding a blueberry-picking trip with his daughter. You might enjoy:

David Hall said...

Hi Ed, I can't wait for our cherry season. I just love them. And my daughter does too. Have to eat them quick when they get onto our house.


Ed Bruske said...

El, the Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm must be pretty close to you, no? I know they experienced real problems with the cost of picking fruit back in the 60s and went to the you-pick scheme. I hadn't heard that orchardists were cutting down their trees. That's a terrible shame--like Michigan losing its asparagus business to Columbia.

Laura, I'm not sure yet that buying tart cherries frozen from Michigan makes sense for us. I'm still waiting to hear what the cost of shipping is.

Christine, tart cherries are available for local orcahrds at the farmers market as well, but they are extremely expensive. I don't know the details of shipping from Michigan well enough yet to know if buying in greater bulk would make sense.

Anonymous--we normally don't accept anonymous comments and prefer you identify yourself somehow. The question you pose is exactly the one I am grappling with.

Pattie, thanks for the link. I'll take a look.

David, I am amazed that there always seems to be a cherry picking season somewhere. Ours is just about over here, yet it's just beginning in Michigan. Wouldn't it be nice if we could just beam ourselves around the globe, eating cherries as they become ripe?