In the world of fresh fruits and veggies, there are only a handful of crops that get everyone super-excited, and California Sweet Cherries is one of them! When the end of April rolls around in the Bay Area, it’s time for our local Northern California cherries. Just 5 years ago, Bi-Rite had relationships with several farmers that would harvest their cherries and deliver them to our door within 24 hours. From the foothills of the Sierra Nevada to the flatlands of Brentwood, each variety of cherry is unique, depending on how and where it was grown. Unfortunately, due to warm winters and drought conditions over the past few years, cherry growers throughout the state are struggling to produce healthy crops. One of the main reasons for the decrease in the California cherry crop is the insufficient chill hours from October through February that are necessary to regulate their growth. With the uncertain future of the Northern California cherry crop, we at Bi-Rite have decided to celebrate the farmers that are still providing wonderful cherries in spite of these difficulties, and to cherish this year’s cherries to the fullest.
Warmer weather in the spring months also leads to cherry crops being harvested a week or two earlier than in typical years. Bi-Rite’s cherry selection always starts with the sweet Red Garnet Cherry from Ed George’s Peach Farm in Winters, California. Last year Ed had a complete crop failure on this variety and this year he only has 50 % of his crop. The one benefit of the smaller crops is that the cherries have more room on the tree to grow nice and big. There aren’t many crop varieties that produce the best fruit early in the season, but the Red Garnet is an exception. They are firm with a rich sweet flavor but are only around for 7-10 days. The two other local farmers that bring their cherries to Bi-Rite are Frog Hollow Farm in Brentwood and Hidden Star Orchards in Linden. Frog Hollow has almost had a complete crop failure the past couple years and only has enough fruit to bring to the Farmer’s Markets. This leaves it up to Johann Smit at Hidden Star to be our main local cherry grower this season. He usually starts us out with the Burlat Cherry, which is a softer variety with a very delicate sweet/tart flavor perfect to get the taste buds excited for cherry season. The Burlat will be followed by some other sweet red varieties like the Bing, Brooks, Larian, and Red Lac Cherries. Johann also grows some beautiful yellow Rainier Cherries.
As the local cherry crop winds down in the beginning of June, we will continue to source cherries from other parts of California and finish the cherry season off with the amazing fruit from the Northwest. If you love to eat local produce and support Northern California cherry growers, May is your month to cherish the local cherries at Bi-Rite!