EAST LANSING, Mich. — As the home of the National Cherry Festival, Michigan is well-known for its cherry production industry. Michigan cherries fall into two general categories: tart and sweet. Our state produces three-fourths of the United States’ total production of tart cherries. Nearly all of the tart cherries grown are one variety, Montmorency, and they are primarily processed by drying, freezing or canning—which means they are available all year long. Michigan also produces sweet cherries, which are generally consumed fresh in the summer months, though some are frozen or canned.
Dried and frozen Michigan cherries are available to Michigan institutions from distributors year-round, which make them a great addition to institutional menus. The newly released Cultivate Michigan Dried and Frozen Michigan Dried and Frozen Tart Cherry Toolkit provides resources to help make it easier for institutions to find, buy and use this versatile food.
A great time to test out some Michigan frozen and dried cherry treats on your menu is during the First Annual Michigan Cherry Slurp on February 14, 2017. Building on the success of the Michigan Apple Crunch, the Michigan Cherry Slurp is a day to get creative and host an event centered on Michigan cherries. Instead of candy this Valentine’s Day, serve up some home-grown superfood sweet treats. Check out the Farm to Freezer slurp kit for making smoothies, pass out individual dried cherry packs, bake wholesome cherry muffins, or create a cherry yogurt parfait.
The Cultivate Michigan Dried and Frozen Cherry Guide features several institutionally-scaled recipes and other ideas for incorporating dried and frozen cherries into your menu, including Michigan Salad, Cherry-Q Dipping Sauce, Tart Cherry Chicken Salad and Tart Cherry Pancake Bars.
Register for the Michigan Cherry Slurp at the MI Cherry Day website to receive an event toolkit with resources to help you plan, promote and celebrate your event along with some information on where you can source Michigan cherries.
Cultivate Michigan is co-coordinated by Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems and the Ecology Center and is supported by Michigan State University Extension. Cultivate Michigan holds featured food product tours to give buyers a first-hand look at how the food is grown and what happens to it before it arrives at their loading docks. Last year, Cultivate Michigan hosted a Cherry Orchard and Plant Tour to give institutional stakeholders a look at the Michigan cherry supply chain. Other product purchasing guides and free promotional materials can be found at the Cultivate Michigan website.
MSU Extension’s Community Food Systems Work Team supports the development of local food systems in Michigan. For more information connect with your local community food systems educator by visiting http://msue.anr.msu.edu/or calling 1-888-678-3464.