Cherries have almost a thousand different varieties, which are roughly divided in half by sweet and sour types. Surprisingly, only twenty or so varieties are actually used in commercial production with Michigan growing the bulk of our country’s tart cherries.
Traverse City, Michigan, nestled between Lake Michigan to the west and Grand Traverse Bay to the north, offers an ideal climate and topography for bountiful cherry harvests. It is no wonder that Traverse City is known as the Cherry Capital of the world.
Under the right conditions, an ordinary, tart cherry tree can produce about 7,000 cherries. Since the average cherry pie holds approximately 250 cherries, one cherry tree can make almost 30 pies.
How do growers get all of those tiny cherries off the trees for harvest? They use mechanical shakers to rattle the ripe cherries off the trees. These cherries then fall onto tarps, which feed them onto a conveyor belt.