From blossom to pie – and beyond

cherries-on-treeThis post is part of an ongoing series about Ontario crops that are in season.

I’ve loved cherries all of my life. But as with so many things, I’d never really given a second thought to how they got to my dinner table. I knew they grew on trees but the steps between blossom and pie were a bit of a mystery.

Earlier this spring, I visited Cherry Lane Farms in the Niagara region, where the Smith family grows cherries, as well as peaches and pears.

tree-shakingI wrote about that visit in an earlier post – and last week, I had the chance to go back to Cherry Lane to watch them harvest and process the cherry crop.

The photo above is of a tree of ripe tart – or sour – cherries, just before harvest.

A large machine (at left) passes through the orchard and shakes each tree so that the cherries fall down onto machine, from where they’re put into a bin of ice water.

The full bins are transported from the orchard back to the farm and are then left to sit for 24 hours. This cools down the fruit and hardens the cherries so they can be processed without bruising or too much crushing.destemming

From here the cherries pass through a de-stemming machine (right) before they pass along a conveyor through a high tech scanning machine.

This machine sorts the fruit according to colour, with cherries that are too dark or too light being diverted to the juice bin.

pitting-machineThe rest of the cherries that have passed muster then go through the pitting machine  (left), which removes all the pits, before they are packed for shipping.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the pits aren’t just a waste product, they have a further use too. Pits are collected in large bins and sold to an area farmer, who uses them to heat his greenhouse.

From Cherry Lane, cherries are processed for the frozen market or, as seen here, packed in large blue drums and sent off to be made into pie fjuice-binilling.

Cherries that end up in the juice bin (right) are destined to become concentrated tart cherry, which is very rich in antioxidants (translation = really good for you).

Cherry Lane has just launched a new website where you can learn more about cherry juice concentrate and their frozen fruit products.

The cherry harvest is slated to end this week and after a break of about a week or so, it’ll be time to launch into peach harvest.

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