The hot humid days of July means long days at the beach, hikes through the cool woods, and cherries! The mid July sun puts a red gleam on the fruit heavy branches signaling that cherry picking season is about to begin on the Door County Peninsula.
Door County is uniquely suited for cherry growing. The poor quality, rocky alkaline soils of the Niagara Escarpment are perfect for tart cherry production. Wisconsin ranks fifth in the nation in tart cherry production, with the majority of the cherries grown on the Door Peninsula. The first cherry trees were planted north of Sturgeon Bay in 1896 by A.L. Hatch and Prof. E.S. Goff. From there, more orchards popped up along the Peninsula, stretching north along the sunny shores.
Montmorency tart cherries are the most abundantly grown variety on the Door Peninsula. The tart cherries love the cool evenings that Lake Michigan and the Green Bay of Lake Michigan provide. Most orchards grow a few sweet cherries as well, for those who’d like to eat theirs straight from the tree! The cherry blossom season runs from mid-May to the beginning of June, depending on weather. One of the prettiest drives is State Highway 42 during peak blossom, with thousands of trees in full bloom at dozens of orchards along the route.
Cherry picking season begins mid-July and runs to the end of the month. Each tree can produce an average of 7000 individual fruit, which means plenty for everyone! In the early days of cherry production in Door County, the cherries were picked by hand. Hundreds of laborers were needed to harvest the bushels upon bushels of fruit. Long, single story, picker houses were built to house the seasonal workers. A few of these unique buildings are left and can be recognized by the many front doors stretched along the fronts. Door County even housed German P.O.W.s during World War II. The German prisoners picked cherries by day, and were afforded more freedoms than your average P.O.W.s. There are stories of them leaving the prison camps in the evenings, and politely returning for bed. These days the cherries are harvested by mechanical limb shakers. These machines can harvest 60- 100 trees per hour. This cuts down on the labor needed to harvest the thousands of acres of trees on the peninsula.
Many orchards around the Door County Peninsula offer both “Pick Your Own” and pre-picked pints of cherries. The Waterbury Inn in Ephraim, WI is centrally located to some of the biggest and best cherry orchards that Door County has to offer. Our family friendly resort feature one and two bed units that feature full kitchens. There are full sized refrigerators in each of the units, perfect for storing fresh cherries and frozen pies! For those who can’t wait to bake their pies at home can use the ovens in the units. A list of cherry orchards can be found at http://www.wisconsincherrygrowers.org.
Nights are filling up fast at the Waterbury Inn, call us today at 920-854-2821 or find us online at http://www.waterburyinn.com!