Growing cherries is arguably the most difficult fruit to produce. Just ask Fred Minazzoli of F & J Minazzoli Farms, who is trying hard to get a decent harvest out of his 22-acre orchard near Stockton.
“We didn’t really have any winter this year, no cold spells that help the trees get ready to produce,” Fred explained. “The trees all bloomed early, so we had an early season. Then we had several hot days with temperatures in the 90s, so the fruit that was on the trees ripened early before they had a chance to get size to them.”
A recent rainstorm that passed through the area should have been a blessing, but instead turned out to be a curse. “The rain gets the cherries wet, and then the sugar in the fruit absorbs the water until they can’t take any more, causing them to split,” said Fred. Fred and his crew took action to minimize the damage by covering some of his trees to keep the rain off of them. The rest of the trees received a different type of protection.
“I watched the weather radar during the night and it looked like it would stop by the time the sun came up. We went out on our tractor with a blower and blew air up into the trees to dry the cherries off. It worked pretty well but we still lost a lot of fruit.”
Cherry growers throughout California have all been hurt by the warm winter and poorly timed rainfall. Varieties such as Royal Rainier and Brooks ripened several weeks early and were smaller than usual, thanks to the unusually hot weather, and the cherries that are supposed to ripen first were damaged by the rain. The cherries that do make it to market should be exceptional, but their availability at the market will be much shorter than usual.