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Cherry Picking - Summer 2022

It's the season of cherries, offering us one more wonderful activity to do in summer in Canada - Cherry Picking!!! 

Cherry trees start to bloom in April or May and start bearing fruits in June. They ripen and are found in abundance starting early July. Cherry season is highly dependent on the weather. Rains and heavy winds could ruin them. So cherries last only shorter duration, tentatively until early September. We missed to witness cherry blossoms this year, so we didn't want to miss out cherry picking.   

Most of the farms near our locality were closed for the season just within a week of opening (in the first week of July). When we checked around mid July, Sun Valley Farms at Stoney Creek, Winona (Ontario), claimed to have a variety of cherry orchards and abundant cherries for everyone, in their farm. Sun Valley Farms is the closest cherry orchard to the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and has been in operation since 1955. Though we had to drive more than an hour (one-way), we headed out to Sun Valley farm on a Saturday afternoon.

When we reached Sun Valley Farms, we were welcomed by a long queue of cars waiting to get into the premises. The first glimpse at the farm from outside, drained out my enthusiasm. No cherries at sight!!! Since we were already there, we went in to try our luck. Instead of an entry fees, we have to pay for a basket to collect the cherries we pick. Baskets were of 3 different sizes - 3 litres, 4 litres and 6 quarts priced at $35, $40 and $50 respectively. One can also buy pre-picked cherries at the counter for a slightly higher price (3L - $38, 4L - $44, 6qt - $55). There was a map at the entrance to the orchards, with the farm's layout. The orchards were named province-wise - Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario etc. We bought a 4 litres basket and walked towards the orchard, starting with Ontario orchard. 

Sun Valley Farms is very vast. After walking a couple of minutes into the orchard, we found lots of trees bearing fruits. What a sight!!! Loveliest of trees, the cherry trees are now hung with fruits along the boughs!!! The cherries were vibrant and red. We started our hunt for the best of the them, by tasting a fruit from each tree. 

Cherries in Ontario orchard were yet to ripen. Manitoba and Alberta were kind of ok. We managed to pluck the ripen ones from Manitoba and Alberta. We moved on to the other side of the farm to explore the remaining varieties. Newfoundland was fleshy; Prince Edward Island (PEI), New Brunswick, North West Territories were delicious; Nova scotia was ok. We filled our basket with the ones we liked the most. By then, our tummies were so full with cherries, we couldn't taste anymore. After spending a good 2 hours in the farm, we started back home.

The best part of this farm is most of the trees had low lying fruits, making it easily accessible by children. My little one enjoyed plucking, eating and filling the basket with fruit. Kids will love this place and find the experience, exciting. This farm had a huge parking area and portable washrooms. But there were no picnic spots within. So we cannot have food or snacks at the farm. They could have distributed handouts along with the baskets at the entry, with farm map and the orchards those are ripen. It would have helped many in identifying the cherries that are ready to be plucked and would also have avoided wastage. People threw away huge amount of fruits, that will ripe in a day or two. This is something which hurts me a lot when we go out for picking fruits. So, we generally pick a single fruit from a tree, taste it and then proceed to grab as many as we intend to take home. A tip for identifying ripe cherries is to look for heavy, dark red (or blackish red) ones with a fresh stem. If in doubt, taste one to see if you like it and then start filling your basket.

Finally, if you intend to visit a farm for cherry picking, carry cash or debit card. Most farms do not accept credit cards; go early in the morning or just few hours before the closing time to avoid crowd; wear comfortable clothing and footwear, as you have to walk a lot; take a stroller if you have a small kid; plan to spend at least a couple of hours in the farm - if you are time crunched, plan another day or if you are tired, sit down, relax and continue to have fun picking the delicious treats; carry adequate water, you would definitely need it after spending considerable time under the sun and tasting lots of fruits.

We carried home a basket full of cherries, which initially appeared a lot for us. We shared some fruit with our friends, ate a major portion out of hand and turned a pound of them into jam. Now we think, we should have grabbed at least 2 baskets. Cherry picking this summer, was indeed a memorable experience for our family!!! 

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Check out the cherry farm tour in the below video. Hope you like it!!!


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