National Cherry Month in February celebrates one of the most prominent fruits, cherries. These little red gems are packed full of flavor, history, and a plethora of varieties: Ranging from sweet to tart, bright red to vibrant yellow, there is a world beyond that jar of maraschino. Venture forward into National Cherry Month and whatever you do, make sure some cherries are on the menu.
History of National Cherry Month
Cherries have been a staple for centuries. From the Roman Empire to the Chinese Dynasties, the little red fruits have been on the plate of millions and came to America by ship with early settlers in the 1600s.
Modern-day cherry production in the United States began in 1852 when Peter Dougherty started to plant cherry trees on Old Mission Peninsula in the state of Michigan. The Midwest area proved to have an ideal climate for growing cherries and mass harvesting soon took place, with the first commercial tart cherry orchards in Michigan being planted in 1893. Soon production surpassed other major crops and the first cherry processing facility, Traverse City Canning Company, was built with the ruby-red fruit soon being shipped to neighboring cities in the Midwest. Outreach to the entire country was created shortly after.
February was chosen as National Cherry Month for numerous reasons, one of which dates back to 1912 when Japan gifted 3000 cherry trees to the United States, a symbol of friendship between the two nations. The park where the trees were planted still stands in Washington DC.
February is also the month where both President’s Day and George Washington’s Birthday occur, with Washington ingrained in American culture as the “alleged chopper of the cherry tree”. The tale goes that George Washington’s father had asked who chopped down a cherry tree on the family’s farm. The young Washington answered, “I cannot tell a lie, I chopped down the cherry tree.” This event helped shape the first president’s honest and trustworthy persona.
National Cherry Month timeline
The Maraschino cherry is so popular that America stops importing foreign cherries.
Maraschino cherries are born
Americans produce their first Maraschino cherries using liqueur.
Tart cherries find their home
Planted only miles from the first sweet cherries, tart cherries find their home in Michigan.
Peter Dougherty begins planting cherry trees in Michigan.
Coming to America
Cherries are brought to America with the first settlers
National Cherry Month FAQs
What is the best cherry to bake with?
You can cook with any cherry you like the taste of, but for pies, we recommend that you use tart varieties. Sour cherries cook down better than sweet cherries and serve best for fillings and jams.
When is National Cherry Month?
Why do we celebrate National Cherry Month?
National Cherry Month was established to make people aware of the fruit’s availability throughout the year.
National Cherry Month Activities
Serve yourself a glass of cold cherry juice.
Cherries, according to a study by the University of Vermont, contain anti-inflammatory properties and can be a tremendous aid in reducing soreness. It’s the perfect drink to hydrate after working out.
Snack on cherries
Cherries pack a sweet punch with none of the guilt. A cup has only 87 calories and a healthy quota of sugar. Tart cherries are packed with antioxidants and are perfect for those watching their health and sugar intake, so snack up!
Bake a pie!
Cherries are an awesome fruit to use in bakery, but none is as known or loved as a good old cherry pie. An indulgent, sweet, sticky dessert that makes the humble cherry the star.
5 Facts About Cherries
George Washington’s fact may be fiction
The tale of America’s first president chopping down a cherry tree may have been made up for an autobiography.
Japanese cherry blossom trees don’t produce fruit.
This type of tree iconic for its beautiful pink flowers are not fruit-bearing.
The average cherry tree is productive
One cherry tree can produce up to 7,000 cherries.
The cherry pits that Roman soldiers threw away eventually became trees that grew all across the empire.
There are more than 1,000 varieties
The sweet-tart split is pretty even, but only twenty percent are commercially harvested.
Why We Love National Cherry Month
It’s human nature to love cherries
Originating in Europe and Northern Africa, cherries have been consumed for thousands of years. King Henry VIII, famous primarily for his multiple wives and their varied untimely demises, is responsible for first introducing the fruit to England, from where it came to America
They’re delicious and good for us
Food that’s good for you never tastes good, right? Wrong. Cherries are filled with vitamins A, B, C, and E. Together, these vitamins help blood circulation, hair growth, stress management, and reduce cancer risk just to start. Take that, multivitamins.
Cherries go with everything
Strawberries had better start sweating because cherries can be baked, juiced, jammed, grilled, dried, and even put in cocktails. Cherry ice cream, cherry jelly, cherry Coca-Cola, cherry cobbler, cherry barbecue sauce, and so on. Hungry yet?
National Cherry Month dates