There’s something magical about a hillside covered with blooming cherry trees.
Even the most jaded sightseer can’t help but gasp in wonder at the vision of hundreds of trees visually shouting “I’m alive!”
Cherry trees across the region are howling brightly right now, millions of white blossoms decorating fields from Central Lake to Northport to Empire. Orchard scenery is at its springtime peak.
My wife and I drove to the tip of Old Mission Peninsula on Saturday. Traffic was pressuring our rear bumper, so we turned off Center Road and took the waterfront route, with an East Bay view on the way out, a West Bay view on the way back.
We saw quite a few lovely cherry orchards in full bloom and a noticeable number of houses that had popped up since the last time I made the drive (in a long-ago pre-COVID summertime).
Most of the new homes appear to be three or four times as large as the older cottages and cabins that surround them. Old Mission Peninsula is upsizing.
Cherry orchards, tucked all across the acreage surrounding Grand Traverse Bay, transform the landscape into a stunning patchwork quilt of white, pink and green. This is a magical time in northwest Lower Michigan, a week when our signature fruit takes a giant step toward fruit-stand season.
Each tiny blossom eventually will develop into a single cherry. And each cherry tastes, oh, so good. Sweet cherries are sold fresh; they’re the ones you buy at roadside stands. Tart cherries mostly are frozen or dried; they’re the ones you eat in cherry/chicken salad or trail mix.
There’s a reason sweet cherries are displayed in a place of honor at every roadside stand across northwest Lower Michigan. They offer an unbeatable combination of bright and shiny exterior, sweet and chewy interior, and satisfyingly spitable pit.
They are the perfect warm weather road food. Nestled securely in a plastic bag fitted into a cupholder, they’re easy to grab without taking your eyes off the road. There’s no sticky mess because you pop the whole fruit into your mouth. It’s a pleasant challenge for teeth and tongue to separate the edible stuff from the pit. It’s fun to check the rearview mirror to make sure the coast is clear and then spit the pit out the open window.
The pit will be bounced around by tires and wind into the ditch, where it eventually will turn into compost.
At least I hope cherry pits are biodegradable. It may take some time for them to return to nature, but people have been spitting pits along northern Michigan roads for more than a century and I haven’t heard of any associated problems.
Another magical season will follow close on the heels of cherry blossom week: tourist season. Instead of millions of tiny cherry blossoms, we’ll enjoy the company of countless bright, shiny cars, each filled with visitors pumping money into the regional economy.