First Michigan Berries of the year. Early Glow variety. Yum!

First Michigan Berries of the year…, photo by Trish P.

Westview Orchards in Washington Township north of Detroit let me know yesterday that they’ll have strawberries to pick this weekend. Real Time Farms agrees strawberries are starting to roll into southern Michigan farm markets from farmers including Prochaska Farms of Tecumseh, who had some at the Saline Farmers Market last Saturday. If picking your own is more your speed, U-Pick Michigan has up-to-date reports.

I should add that we got some organic ones yesterday at the Sara Hardy Downtown Farmers Market in Traverse City​. I believe they came from Ware Farm​ of Bear Lake – you can see them right here!

The Michigan Ag Council’s page on strawberries says that:

Michigan’s strawberry season starts in early June and can extend into mid July. Look for Michigan strawberries in-store or find them where they’re largely produced, in Berrien, Leelanau and Van Buren counties.

Michigan Strawberry facts:

  • Michigan grows strawberries for both fresh and processed uses
  • In 2009, Michigan produced 43,000 tons of fresh strawberries and 3,000 tons of processed strawberries, generating $6.6 million
  • Most of the fresh Michigan strawberries were picked by consumers at “u-pick” operations around the state
  • Strawberries contain 80 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C
  • They are an excellent source of potassium, which can help control blood pressure and fight strokes
  • They are an excellent source of fiber, which help reduce total cholesterol levels

In kind of a neat little coincidence, my friend Trish snapped this photo five years ago on June 12, 2010! She’s got a great blog entry on making strawberry preserves, something that’s definitely a Michigan tradition.

View her photo of Early Glow strawberries from the Bardenhagen Berry Farm on the Leelanau Peninsula bigger and see more in her delicious Michigan harvest slideshow.

Finally Morels in Michigan

Finally, photo by Julie

Reports of morels are coming in from all across the state. They’ll be celebrating our delicious woodland friends this weekend (May 8-10) at the Mesick Mushroom Festival and next weekend (May 14-17) at the National Morel Mushroom Festival in Boyne City.

If you’re looking for Michigan morel photos and features, click that link for a ton from Michigan in Pictures. Happy hunting!!

Julie says these plus a few others will make a great topping for a ribeye! View the photo bigger and see more in her Spring/Summer slideshow.

Wild Leeks

Wild Leeks, photo by CherryCapitalFoods

Here’s some of a Wild Food Wednesday on Wild Leeks I wrote for eatdrinkTC.com. You often find these oniony treasures when you’re morel hunting. Leeks are in the woodse now, and more than one little bird has told me of morels popping around the state as well! 

Whether you know them as ramps, wild leeks, spring onions or by their scientific name of Allium tricoccum, ramps are a wild onion with a delicious & pungent garlicky flavor. Wild leeks are found from as far south as Alabama all the way up into Canada. To the south, they are more commonly known as ramps while in the north, wild leek is more common. Wikipedia’s page on Allium tricoccum says that “ramps” comes from the English word ramson, a common name of the European bear leek (Allium ursinum) that is related to our American species.

Regarding harvesting, Ramp-age at the Earthy Delights blog says:

Good ramps or wild leeks should have two or three whole bright green leaves with the small white bulb attached by a purplish stem. The leaves are generally about 6 inches long, although ramps tend to be harvested at a somewhat earlier stage than are wild leeks. Depending on where you get them, ramps or wild leeks may be still muddy from the field or all cleaned and trimmed. The key is that they be fresh. Yellowing or withering in the leaves is a sign that they have gone too long.

A papery wrapper leaf (and some dirt) may surround the bulb and should be pulled off as you would with scallions. Trim away any roots along with their little button attachment. The entire plant is now ready for eating.

Once ramps / wild leeks have been cleaned, store them in the refrigerator tightly wrapped to keep them from drying out (and to protect the rest of the contents of the fridge from the heady aroma). They should keep for a week or more, but use them as soon as possible after harvest.

Some wild leek facts & lore:

  • Leeks were prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans and were especially revered for their beneficial effect upon the throat. The Greek philosopher Aristotle credited the clear voice of the partridge to a diet of leeks, while the Roman emperor Nero supposedly ate leeks everyday to make his voice stronger. (World’s Healthiest Foods)
  • The name of Chicago originates from “Checagou” (Chick-Ah-Goo-Ah)means “wild onions” in the Potawatomi language. The area was so named because of the smell of rotting marshland and wild leeks that covered it. (Earthy Delights)
  • Wild leeks are high in Vitamins C and A, and are full of healthful minerals. And they have the same cholesterol-reducing capacity found in garlic and other members of this family. (Earthy Delights)
  • The entire plant is edible and leaves, especially when young, are delicious when sauteed. (my kitchen)

View this photo background bigtacular and see more in Cherry Capital Foods’ Spring Hollow Farms slideshow.

I’m especially happy to feature today’s photo because we buy incredible lettuce, greens and duck & quail eggs from Richard & Diana of Spring Hollow Farms of Buckley. If you see them at the Traverse City Farmer’s Market, be sure to buy a bag or two of their spring mix!

More Michigan food and more spring wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures.

Morels at the Honor Hotel

Morels at the Honor Motel, photo by Honor Motel

In spring, a young Michigander’s fancies turn to … morels! Here’s a shot from Honor in the northwest Lower Peninsula showing a handful of black morels found on Tax Day. It’s earlier than I would have expected but hopefully it signals a good, long season for these woodland treasures.

Lots more Michigan morel photos and information on Michigan in Pictures!

View the photo bigger on Facebook and follow the Honor Motel for more.

PS: If you’re finding morels anywhere, post a comment here or two our Facebook.

Bounty

Bounty, photo by Bob Gudas

The Freep reports that Michigan is forecasting a crop of almost 29 million bushels of apples in 2014:

This year’s estimate is just under the record 30 million bushels that were picked last year. The yield in 2013 was so robust that some of the state’s growers and packers, most of whom are on the west side of the state, filled their storerooms and even rented additional space to handle all the extra big crop.

In addition to setting a record, Smith said last year’s bumper crop put Michigan in the No. 2 spot for apple production, pushing New York down to No. 3.

Washington is by far the No. 1 apple-producing state in the country, growing more than twice as many apples as Michigan and New York combined.

Additional fun apple fact from this well-done Freep article: If you want Michigan apples, McDonald’s has them. The fast food giant is a major customer for the Michigan apple industry, purchasing 25.5 million pounds in 2013.

View Bob’s photo from last October of an orchard near Rothbury in west Michigan bigger and see more pics in his slideshow.

More apples on Michigan in Pictures!

Summer Corn

Summer Corn, photo by PepOmint

Corn is coming in – hope you get to taste some this weekend!!

View PepOmint’s photo background big and see more in her slideshow.

 

Cherry Time in Michigan

July 11, 2014

Ready to Pick

Ready to Pick, photo by Bruce

While much of the state is still waiting on cherries to ripen, the National Cherry Festival is heading into the final weekend for their 88th annual event. Their history page says (in part):

French colonists from Normandy brought pits that they planted along the Saint Lawrence River and on down into the Great Lakes area. Cherry trees were part of the gardens of French settlers as they established such cities as Detroit, Vincennes, and other midwestern settlements.

Modern day cherry production began in the mid-1800s. Peter Dougherty was a Presbyterian missionary living in northern Michigan. In 1852, he planted cherry trees on Old Mission Peninsula (near Traverse City, Michigan). Much to the surprise of the other farmers and Indians who lived in the area, Dougherty’s cherry trees flourished and soon other residents of the area planted trees. The area proved to be ideal for growing cherries because Lake Michigan tempers Arctic winds in winter and cools the orchards in summer.

The first commercial tart cherry orchards in Michigan were planted in 1893 on Ridgewood Farm near the site of Dougherty’s original plantings. By the early 1900s, the tart cherry industry was firmly established in the state with orchards not only in the Traverse City area, but all along Lake Michigan from Benton Harbor to Elk Rapids. Soon production surpassed other major crops. The first cherry processing facility, Traverse City Canning Company, was built just south of Traverse City, and the ruby-red fruit was soon shipped to Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee.

…The most famous sweet cherry variety is the Bing cherry; this cherry variety got its name from one of Lewelling’s Chinese workmen. Another sweet cherry variety is the Lambert, which also got its start on Lewelling Farms. The Rainier cherry, a light sweet variety, originated from the cross breeding of the Bing and Van varieties by Dr. Harold W. Fogle at the Washington State University Research Station in Prosser, Washington. The Bing, Lambert and Rainier varieties together account for more than 95 percent of the Northwest sweet cherry production.

Today, the U. S. cherry industry produces more than 650 million pounds of tart and sweet cherries each year. Much of the cherry production is concentrated in Michigan and the Northwest. Michigan grows about 75 percent of the tart cherry crop. Oregon and Washington harvest about 60 percent of the sweet cherry crop. Other states with commercial cherry crops are Utah, Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania and California.

Read on for more, and if you want to read about how some cherry farmers think that Federal cherry policy is leaving dollars in the orchards, head over to this Bridge Magazine article on how USDA cherry policy impacts Michigan cherry farmers.

Bruce photographed these beauties last week at at Lemon Creek Winery near Baroda. View his pic background bigtacular and see more in his slideshow.

More cherries and more summer wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures!

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