National Cherry Month in February celebrates one of the most prominent fruits, cherries. These little red gems are packed full of flavor, history, and a plethora of varieties: Ranging from sweet to tart, bright red to vibrant yellow, there is a world beyond that jar of maraschino. Venture forward into National Cherry Month and whatever you do, make sure some cherries are on the menu.
History of National Cherry Month
Cherries have been a staple for centuries. From the Roman Empire to the Chinese Dynasties, the little red fruits have been on the plate of millions and came to America by ship with early settlers in the 1600s.
Modern-day cherry production in the United States began in 1852 when Peter Dougherty started to plant cherry trees on Old Mission Peninsula in the state of Michigan. The Midwest area proved to have an ideal climate for growing cherries and mass harvesting soon took place, with the first commercial tart cherry orchards in Michigan being planted in 1893. Soon production surpassed other major crops and the first cherry processing facility, Traverse City Canning Company, was built with the ruby-red fruit soon being shipped to neighboring cities in the Midwest. Outreach to the entire country was created shortly after.
February was chosen as National Cherry Month for numerous reasons, one of which dates back to 1912 when Japan gifted 3000 cherry trees to the United States, a symbol of friendship between the two nations. The park where the trees were planted still stands in Washington DC.
February is also the month where both President’s Day and George Washington’s Birthday occur, with Washington ingrained in American culture as the “alleged chopper of the cherry tree”. The tale goes that George Washington’s father had asked who chopped down a cherry tree on the family’s farm. The young Washington answered, “I cannot tell a lie, I chopped down the cherry tree.” This event helped shape the first president’s honest and trustworthy persona.