Pruning, watering and fertilizing go on through the year for a harvest that takes daily hand picking for two or three short months.
This year, the trees received more than enough chill hours – the number of cold hours between 32 and 45 degrees that a fruit or nut tree requires for flowering and fruit production. There was also lots of precipitation from December through March.
Last year left a lower-than-average harvest because of the drought. However, this year’s cherry season seems to be off to a good start, according to many local farmers. Even with the winter’s wind and rain, crop totals look to be average or slightly above average. Harvest will begin a week or so later than last year, but you should expect to find cherries at the market by mid-month.
“Everything is a week to 10 days behind, pretty much everywhere, due to the weather this year,” noted Francisco Resendiz of Resendiz Farms of Hughson.
Hilma Lujan, owner of Lujan Farms in the Central Valley, says their cherry yield will be average. Given the weather conditions, though, their peaches may arrive before the cherries.
Mike Billigmeier, of B&B Farm in Linden, is looking forward to stone fruit season.
“It looks like we’re going to have a good year, though it’s hard to judge what the harvest will be like compared to last year during the drought,” says Billigmeier, who grows Coral, Brooks, Bing and a new Royal Hazel variety of cherries, along with peaches, apricots and nectarines.
He says harvest will be two to three weeks later than during the last few years of drought. Their orchards do not appear to have had much damage due to the wind and rain from this winter, but it’s taking longer for the fruit to set and develop. The first cherry varieties to appear at farmers market will be the early Corals and Brooks.
Guy Allard of Allard Farms in Westley expects his Champagne, Coral and Brooks cherries in by mid-May. “The cherries are setting up well, and we think that there should be enough groundwater for summer irrigation,” he noted.
Further south in Morgan Hill, Chris Borello of Borello Farms says the cold weather has been great for their trees, and the rain provided enough water throughout the winter. Borello says the crop looks very promising.
“All but one of our orchards fared well with the rain since they have good drainage. One of our orchards along the creek flooded out and caused significant damage to the irrigation system. It’s likely a large percentage of those trees will die because they were underwater for an extended period of time,” he said.
Harvesting healthy crops depends on many factors, from good soil and good care to rain and sunshine. Our local cherry farmers are coming through another season relatively unscathed. Stop by your farmers market this May and June and enjoy some of California’s best sweet cherries.
Arugula, Cherry and Almond Salad
- ½ lb. fresh sweet cherries, pitted
- ½ lb. arugula
- 2 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano, thinly shaved (3/4 c.)
- ½ c. almonds, coarsely chopped
- 3 T good extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 T white wine vinegar
- Flaky coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cut the cherries in half lengthwise and place in a large serving bowl. Add the arugula, cheese and almonds. Drizzle with the oil and vinegar. Crush a few generous pinches of salt over the top and season generously with pepper.
Toss to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.