Delta Food Feature: Cherries
A Bowl of Cherries!
In the Delta, daffodils and cherry blossoms are harbingers of spring. Starting in late February, the byways of San Joaquin County, Brentwood in Contra Costa County and the North Delta break forth in clouds of pink, as the Delta cherry crop explodes into bloom.
Cherries are a member of the Rosaceae family, which also includes roses, raspberries and almonds. The genus Prunera (sweet cherries are cultivars of Prunus avium) contains stone fruit cousins of the cherry such as peaches, plums and apricots. In California, cherry season runs from mid-May to the last part of June (hence the early blossoming), a roughly six-week season that makes local, fresh cherries a special treat.
Besides being delicious, cherries are exceptionally good for you. According to the California Cherry Board sweet cherries are an excellent source of potassium, which plays a role in controlling blood pressure and reducing the risk of stroke, and melatonin, a natural sleep aid. They are low in calories and release sugars slowly during digestion, giving cherries a low “glycemic index” that makes them a good carbohydrate choice for dieters and diabetics. They have anti-inflammatory properties and may even help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. With all of that going for them, cherries should be your go-to spring fruit – and fortunately, in the Delta, that’s not only tasty and healthy but FUN. Many cherry growers in the Delta offer “u-pick” access to their orchards, a terrific way to spend a gorgeous sunny Delta afternoon and the best way to make sure your cherries are the most perfect they can be.
Harvest Time in Brentwood features a downloadable map showing growers, their crops and the picking season. Out of the 50 farms listed on their 2015 map, 31 feature cherries, either pre-picked or u-pick. Sacramento River Delta Grown lists two farms offering cherries, both pre-picked but grown right there on the premises. There are also extensive cherry orchards in San Joaquin County, and the roads are beautiful during blossom season, but most of them are producing cherries for the commercial market and are not open to the public.