Door County cherry season underway

Tart cherries ripen in a Door County orchard

DOOR COUNTY - They're red, they're tart, and they're ripe for the picking.

The Door County cherry season has finally arrived.

Orchards covering up to 2,000 acres are open, and pickers are picking.

The Winter put the crop weeks behind schedule, but now the wait is over, and cherry growers are hoping for a good season.

At Robertson Orchards near Sturgeon Bay, Beth Warnke of Oshkosh, tried to beat the rush.

"Because I was here last year, and I wasn't the first, and it was overrun with people. It was harder to pick. So we wanted to be here first," said Warnke.

"I've had people calling for two months. Are the cherries ready?" asked Kris Robertson, Robertson Orchards of Door County Owner.

Robertson says, he can finally say yes.

"It's usually mid-July, sometimes even the Fourth of July they open. But this year, it's about two weeks behind because of the cold Spring, cold Winter," said Robertson.

Robertson says he lost some of his ten acres of cherry trees.

"The trees that have cherries are a really nice quality, and really nice shape," said Robertson.

Just down the road near Forestville, Cherry Lane Orchards has been open since Wednesday. Owner Tom Sayer says he expects his biggest cherry crop in eight years.

"Not all of the orchards in Door County were hit with hail. These cherries are just beautiful. They're perfect, and there's plenty to pick," said Sayer.

Larry Naidl of Manitowoc says he's picking cherries for a concoction he calls "cherry bounce."

"Very simple to can. You leave the pits in, put it in a jar. Fill it with vodka, and a little bit of sugar, and wait until Thanksgiving. Fantastic," said Naidl.

Others prefer the culinary approach for the tarts.

"We pit them, and freeze them, and all my family wants them. I make cherry sauce, cherry pie. All Winter long, we enjoy them. So for us, it's a nice outing to come and do this," said Warnke.

It's a tradition that is short-lived. Cherry picking usually wraps up in the area orchards in about a month.

Door County is the fourth largest producer of tart cherries in the country, with harvest totals closing in on 12 million pounds per year.