HARTFORD — Don’t blink or you may miss out on the chance to purchase Connecticut Grown cherries. This popular crop is available for a limited time by a select number of growers throughout the state. Cherries are one of the more challenging fruits to grow here but the pay-off is delicious.
“We will be opening up for pick your own cherries this Saturday,” said Don Preli, fourth generation owner of Belltown Hill Orchards in South Glastonbury. “Despite some issues with pollination and wet weather we have fared well with our cherry crop and encourage people to get them while you can. Cherries will be at peak over the fourth of July holiday weekend. ”
Preli grows ten different varieties offering both sweet and tart cherries. Sweet cherries are available now and the tart cherries are about ten days away from being ready. Tart cherries are highly sought after by those using them for cooking or in jams. They are also popular with the Eastern European consumers who eat them like sweet cherries.
While only available for a short time of two, maybe three weeks, consumer demand remains strong. Sweet cherries are delicious in pie, cobbler or jam. When selecting your cherries, at either pick your own or at farmers’ markets, look for a bright, shiny skin with the green stem firmly attached to the top of the fruit.
“Connecticut Grown cherries are a huge hit with consumers,” said Bryan P. Hurlburt, Connecticut Department of Agriculture Commissioner. “We are fortunate that we have farmers in the state who grow cherries, and there is a strong demand for both the sweet and tart varieties. Be sure to get out with your family and friends to visit a local family farm to buy cherries in this short window they are available.”
Cherries are a low calorie fruit offering significant amounts of antioxidants, potassium and vitamin C. Like most fruits, storage and preparation is key. Fresh cherries should be kept in the refrigerator with stem attached. When you’re ready to eat them, remove the stem and rinse gently in lukewarm water to bring to room temperature. Gently pat dry to remove moisture.
They can also be frozen allowing you to use them all year long. Simply wash and drain well before placing on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Place in freezer until frozen and then store in containers.
Gather your friends and family to get your own sweet or tart Connecticut Grown cherries this weekend. Before heading out it’s a good idea to call ahead, or check the farms website, for daily updates as weather conditions impact availability. To find cherries near you visit www.CTGrown.gov/pickyourown.
–Connecticut Department of Agriculture
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