Cherry Me Surprised!
Do you know what the state fruit of Utah is? It’s the cherry! So maybe you did know. But here’s a little less known fact: Utah ranks top five in the nation for growing both sweet and sour cherries. No other state can make that claim. I like to eat cherries, but I’ve never grown cherries. So this month, I set out to quiz my more agriculturally minded friends, and it paid off in a brilliant collection of advice about growing and consuming these delicious little fruits.
Cherries are divided into two groups sour and sweet. In Utah, we rank second in the nation for producing tart cherries and fifth in the nation for producing sweet cherries. “About 2 billion cherries are harvested yearly.” (Utah.gov) That’s a whole lot of cherries! Both sweet and sour cherries are used for desserts, but for the most part sour cherries are used in pies, while sweet cherries can be munched on fresh. Some examples of sour cherries grown in Utah are Montmorency, North Star, and English Morello, and some sweet cherries cultivated here are Bing, Stella, Van, and Rainier.
According to Ray Ballard, owner of Ballard Nursery in Hurricane, Utah, “Most people come in to purchase Bing, Stella, and Lapin, but the self-pollinating tart cherries are growing in popularity.” And what most people don’t know is that when you buy a cherry tree it is a two for one kind of deal. You need to buy a second cherry tree of a different variety to cross pollinate. However you can skip that whole process and buy a self-pollinating tree, no wonder they’re growing in popularity. Personally, I’d want to see if I can keep one alive before I go for two.
Ray was kind enough to show me some cherry trees in his nursery and share some good advice about raising trees here in Southern Utah:
1) Plant the tree in a sunny location. Full sun! Cherry trees love sun.
2) Make sure there is good drainage around the tree. Cherry trees do not like to be soggy.
3) Water the tree really well every two weeks.
4) Don’t be afraid to prune. Do your heavy pruning during the dormant season. To control the size of the tree, cut when you pick the cherries. When you do this, you will get more fruit and less growth.
5) Fertilize the tree in February, May, and July or August. If you only fertilize once make sure it’s in February. And remember do not fertilize later than August because you will cause tender new growth, and your tree will be more susceptible to frost.
If the thought of growing your own tree is too overwhelming, don’t worry! You can still pick fresh cherries at M&I Nursery 1182 W 300S Hurricane, Utah (435) 635-2834. Cherries are usually ripe around the end of May or beginning of June, but it can be later, so call ahead to find out when the picking begins! Then use your fresh cherries for these scrumptious recipes!
Of course we had to include a cherry pie recipe and this recipe for a fresh cherry pie filling has a story behind it that makes us love it all the more.
Cherry Pie From Heather Harris
I got this recipe from my Mother, Elizabeth. She found it in a cookbook that she was given for a wedding present (my parents will be married 58 years as of this July). I asked her the name of the book, but she replied that the cover fell off over 30 years ago, so as far as I am concerned, if it has been used that much, I can call it hers.
2 uncooked pie crusts
1 1/4 cup Sugar
2 1/2 Tb. Flour or for a clear syrup look – 2 tsp. Cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
1qt. washed and pitted tart red cherries
Mix all dry ingredients
Stir cherries into dry ingredients, and pour into a crust, top with additional crust.
Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350 for 25 minutes, longer if needed.
Cherry Vanilla Smoothie
From Rachelle Hughes featured on Pantry Eats
I love a good smoothie and this is one of my new favorite combos. This recipe is good for one large or two small smoothies.
1/4 cup canned or fresh pitted cherries
1/4 to 1/2 cup cherry juice from jar or other juice (depending on your desired consistency)
4 oz vanilla yogurt (I use Greek yogurt)
1 TB sugar free vanilla pudding mix
1/2 cup crushed ice.
1/4 cup small frozen apple chunks (they had been pretreated with cinnamon sugar and lemon juice). You could use finely chopped apple here instead with a dash of cinnamon.
Directions: Add to large cup or blender and blend until smooth.
Easy Cherry Cobbler
From Linne Marsh adapted from her Grandma LaMae
1 box of pre-made cake mix (White or Yellow)
16 oz of Cherry Pie Filling (either homemade or from a can)
½ cube of Butter (or more if you want)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray the base of a glass baking dish with spray to prevent sticking.
2. Pour cherry pie filling in the base of the baking dish. Pour the box of dry cake mix on the top.
3. For a streusel like top: Melt butter. Pour the butter on the top of the dry cake mix. For a crunchy top: cut the butter and layer it on top of the dry cake mix.
4. Bake for 30 minutes. You will know it’s done when the top is a bit brown and looks crispy.
Cherry Chocolate Cake
From Jaime Tapp inspired by her mother. Alive! Utah tested this in its kitchen and made a few discoveries. The cherry filling makes this nice and moist. It is also lower in fan than your typical chocolate cake because the filling substitutes for the oil.
1 can cherry pie filling
1 box chocolate cake mix (chocolate, Devil’s food, etc. just not German chocolate)
1/3 cup water
1 can cream cheese frosting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, combine cake mix, water, and eggs. Fold in can of pie filling. Pour into greased cake pan and bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until done. When cool, frost the cake with cream cheese icing. Top with more cherries if desired.
Pineapple-Cherry Cheese Ball
From Delena Hanson adapted from the Pineapple Cheese Ball recipe on About.com
Pineapple-cherry cheese ball makes about 3 cups of cheese spread.
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1 can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple, drained
1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper, or mixture of green and red bell pepper
3 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
2 teaspoons seasoned salt, or to taste
2 cups chopped dried cherries
1. Combine cream cheese, drained crushed pineapple, chopped bell pepper, chopped green onion, seasoned salt, and 1 cup chopped dried cherries.
2. Chill in refrigerator until firm then shape into a ball.
3. Just before serving roll pineapple cheese ball in remaining cup of cherries. Serve pineapple-cherry cheese ball with assorted crackers.