With the arrival of the first red sweet cherries from the Central Valley coming later than usual, the reality of the Northern California cherry crop failure has set in. Now more than ever, it’s critical that we support local, organic farms and farmers.
Over the past ten years we’ve started cherry season at Bi-Rite with the amazing Red Garnet cherry form Ed George, followed a week later by cherries from Hidden Star Orchard and Frog Hollow’s Burlat Cherry. By the time the third week of May rolls around, we’re usually knee-deep in Brooks, Bings and Rainier cherries from our favorite local growers. Unfortunately, the warm weather and drought this winter wasn’t kind to the cherry trees. Without enough cold nights this winter, the trees never met their chilling requirement after entering dormancy. The lack of cold nights, coupled with the stress of drought conditions, means that instead of beginning to produce fruit from the dormant buds, the trees go straight to preparing for the next season.
Ed George, who has historically brought us our first cherries of the year from Winters, CA, had complete crop failure, leaving him with only a handful of cherries per tree. Johann Smit of Hidden Star, who usually brings us the season’s first organic cherries, said he’s gotten about 50% crop failure (we will have some of the Hidden Star cherries on our shelves this year but it won’t be the epic cherry celebration we’ve come to love). Meanwhile, Farmer Al of Frog Hollow lost about half his crop and only has enough for farmer’s markets.
We will do our best to source California cherries throughout May but the price will be a little higher than usual, starting the season at $9.99/lb. Most likely, the cherries coming in from the North West in June will be some of the best of the season. We do have some good cherries on the shelves now, but if you can’t get your hands on them in time or if the prices prove too high, “Eat a berry instead of a cherry.” And for the sake of all of our local farmer friends and all of our guests who count on us for good local produce, let’s hope that weather conditions improve soon!