- The Northwest leads the world in sweet cherry production.
- There are more than 2,500 cherry growers.
- Washington growers harvest up to 170,000 tons of cherries each year.
- Every year, approximately 30,000 acres of cherry orchards bear fruit.
- A cherry tree takes nearly 10 years to reach its full production potential.
- Cherries are especially sensitive to adverse weather conditions during harvest such as rain, excessively hot sun and hail — any of which can make or break a good production year.
- Sweet Cherry varieties include Lapin, Bing, Van, Lambert, Sweetheart, Skeena, Chelan, Tieton and Rainier.
- IQF or frozen cherry production utilizes Lapin, Bing and Van varieties.
The Cherry Tree
Winter: Pruning for health
- The production year begins during cold winter months when growers prune dormant trees.
- Thinning out branches will increase cherry size and volume come harvest time.
Spring: Blossoms and bees
- Trees blossom in this critical season for delicate sweet cherries.
- During sudden cold spells, growers use heaters and wind machines to protect tender buds and blossoms.
- Beekeepers bring in extra bees to help Mother Nature pollinate the new crop.
- By late spring, blossoms turn into shiny green, immature cherries.
- The sun and under-tree sprinklers turn cherries a rich, mahogany red.
Summer: Sunny hopes and harvest
- Harvest begins in June, when specially-trained workers begin hand-picking cherries, which can last until early August.
- Rain at harvest can split the delicate fruit as nearly-mature cherries absorb water and literally pop open, ruining the crop.
- Growers must respond immediately by using large, overhead wind machines to blow water off the fruit. Many growers even hire helicopters to hover over the trees to blow water off with their down draft.
- Summer heat can also be a hazard to tender new cherries. A blazing hot sun can sunburn the fruit.