Of all of the farm-related outings you can do in the summertime, it’s hard to find one that’s more satisfying than cherry picking. Cherries are a one-bite wonder: self-contained, juicy and sweet. They’re also super-easy to pick and a treat to eat.
Copeland’s Cherry Ranch
For our cherry picking adventure, we chose Copeland’s Cherry Ranch in Leona Valley, California (owned by a friend of a friend). Leona Valley is kind of like a little cherry village in Southern California. It has more than a dozen cherry orchards and plentiful u-pick opportunities. Copeland’s is a family-owned organic cherry ranch. They planted their trees 2000 and received organic certification in 2008. The ranch features four main varieties of sweet cherries: Bing, Rainier, Utah Giant, and Tieton. There are also a handful of Benton cherries.
We had a great time sampling each of the cherries. The flavors ranged from light and not-too-sweet (Rainier) to dark and super-sweet (Tieton). Our kids ran gleefully from tree to tree looking for the colorful tags that mark the variety of the tree. And the picking was a breeze: These trees are just the right height for both kids and adults to pick fruit with no ladder required.
Cherry Picking Guidelines
For the most part, cherry picking is pretty straightforward. However, the cherry orchards ask you not to pull off the cherry with the stem attached. They ask you to pick the fruit stemless or else cut off the cherry stem with special scissors instead. The reason is that if you pull off a whole bunch of cherries with the stems, you might pull off the “woody fruit spur.” (That’s the part at the very top of the stem.) This part of the tree is essential to producing fruit year after year.
The only other challenge is that you need to use stemless cherries right away. That’s when you need to put the kids to work with a cherry pitter. You should be ready to cook them or eat them as soon as possible. They aslo freeze well, so you can plan to put a whole bunch in the freezer if necessary.
Next up on our agenda: Cherry cake, cherry pie, cherry ice cream, and lots and lots of lunchbox cherries. For a special treat, our kids love this Cherry-Rosemary Ice Cream. Do you have a favorite cherry recipe?