Cherries got their start in the regions of ancient Turkey and Greece, making their way to Rome around 72 BC. Slowly moving up to France, King Henry VIII liked them well enough to haul them back to England (Henry was a serious foodie) in the early 1500s. They’re in the same fruit family as peaches, plums, apricots, and almonds.
While many of us associate cherry blossoms with Japan, interestingly, most of those beautiful blossoms do not turn into fruit. Edible cherry producing trees were brought from the West in the late 1800s (think what they were missing all those centuries). However, Japan does not value the fruit as we do, and pies are definitely not on most menus.
In America, because of their beautiful blossoms, cherry trees were planted by settlers up and down the Northeast coast. Early Dutch and French immigrants planted thousands in the NY city area as well as points west, in what is now Michigan. When George Washington purportedly chopped down a cherry tree, he just might have started the ball rolling.
There are basically two types–sweet and sour. They have a relatively short growing season and are not particularly hearty trees. The U.S. is the second largest producer of cherries at 300,000 tons annually, after top producer, Turkey, which weighs in with 460,000 tons. Northwest and Midwest states grow the bulk of cherries, Traverse City, Michigan reigns as the cherry capital of the world and holds a huge festival annually. Known for their sour cherries, they feature the world’s largest cherry pie each year (bring your own vanilla ice cream). The wood of cherry trees is a popular type for furniture in the U.S.
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