Spring is one of the most beautiful times of year, especially early May in Michigan. The tulips are up, in all the colors of the rainbow. There are bright yellow bushes and bright yellow dandiolions. But what might be the prettiest sight of all is a fruit tree displaying it's blossoms. This is the first sign that delicious, juice-dripping fruit is on it's way. Amongst the first trees to bloom are the cherry trees. This afternoon, I had the opportunity to visit a fruit farm in Milan, Michigan. Right now their cherry trees are in bloom.
The name of the farm is Wasem Fruit Farm. The orchard began in the 1950s. In 1978, Jan and Bruce Upston joined the team and a donut kitchen was also added. This is also around when their u-pick business began. Now in 2011, they have around 55-60 acres of land being used to grow apples, cherries, currants, gooseberries, peaches, pears, plums, raspberries, and pumpkins. Bruce gave me the tour of the cherry section of the farm.
At Wasem they grow tart cherries. They tried sweet cherries before, but didn't find much success. They have two different types of sour cherries, Montmorency, which is the sour cherry's answer to the Bing, meaning it's the most widely grown sour cherry. They also grow some Balaton sour cherries which, although tart, have a firmer skin and darker color than most sour cherries. Sour cherries are typically used for pies, cobblers, jams, and even in savory dishes. Their acidity and flavor are what makes a truly great cherry pie.
Wasem is one of many sour cherry growers across the great state of Michigan. Around 75-80% of the nation's crop of sour cherries are grown in Michigan. Most of the nation's crop of sour cherries are canned. So to find a place that sells fresh sour cherries is truly a gem. If they have a good harvest (and this year is looking good), they will offer pick your own cherries.
Another interesting tidbit I learned on this occasion is that to help with pollination, they hire a beekeeper. He hauls in his bees and they help to pollinate all the trees on the farm. This naturally enables them to grow more fruit than if they just left it up to nature.
If you are in the area around the time cherries are ripe for the pickings (and that is looking like sometime towards the start of July this year), then come check out Wasem Fruit Farm. They are located at 6580 Judd Road, Milan, MI, 48160. For information, visit their website or call (734) 482-2342.