Being new to northwest Michigan, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that over 70% of all cherries grown in the United States come from Northern Michigan.

Being so close to so many cherries can make us well, not see the forest for the trees. While there are lots of cherries, they don’t have a long harvest season. In fact, this year I’m told that we’ll be lucky to see sweet cherries up to July 31 “ish,” and those extra special tart cherries will hopefully hang around into early August.

There are many Northern Michigan cherry farms. However, there is one that stands apart from others in that it offers organic cherries that you can pick fresh off the tree: North Star Organics (NSO) in Frankfort, MI.

“We're excited to announce that we have a 2020 U-Pick, which just began last Thursday,” said NSO co-owner, Cheryl Kobernik. “We will be open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day fruit is available, which is usually just a couple weeks. We have sweet and tart cherry picking: $3 per pound for tart cherries, and $5 per pound for sweet cherries, and we will not be taking any pre-orders this year.”

North Star is following current C-19 guidelines, which mandates that masks be worn when near other people, and that hand sanitizing stations be used.

Kobernik and her husband, Alan, have owned and operated North Star Organics for the last 35 years, and their 40-acre cherry farm has been certified, “organic,” for the last 21 years.

“We’re a very small, family farm,” she joked, adding, “and we’re kind of an anomaly because the farm never expanded beyond 40 acres, and it wasn’t inherited. We bought it on purpose.”

Kobernik said that 95% of North Star Organics are tart cherries, which are turned into individually quick frozen (IQF) cherries. She said about 2,000 people will go through the farm in 10 days and ‘You Pick’ the fruit before a shaking crew will finish the harvest.

“This year’s crop is light, so we will not have frozen, dried, or pre-picked fruit available this year,” she said, adding “and the best way to preserve those marvelous Michigan-grown cherries is to support the Michigan growers that are providing them for you.”

You can taste the difference in a fresh, Michigan cherry, hands down, so I do hope that you take an opportunity to get out to a U-Pick, or even a farm stand nearest you, before these beautiful berries are gone. North Star Organics is located at 1139 Forrester Road, in Frankfort, Michigan. Phone: (231) 352-4865.

Growing roughly 75% of the U.S. crop of tart cherries, and about 20% of sweet cherries, Northern Michigan is the perfect place to enjoy the benefits of both sweet and sour cherries.

Rich in anthocyanins, cherries offer help fighting inflammation and a host of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

The anthocyanins in cherries also boost brain health due to their anti-neuro-degenerative properties. Likewise, tart cherries are found to help fight metabolic syndrome, aid in a more restful night’s sleep, help maintain healthy joint function, ease joint pain, and help soothe sore muscles, too.

With all these great health benefits to be had, I think it wise for all of us to have a bowl of Michigan cherries in hand.

To help you preserve every extra berry that you can grab, here are a variety of pie crust recipes — Enjoy.

Pie Principles

1. Do not over mix dough. For a good and flaky crust, make sure to only coat the fat with flour, not blend it in like cookie dough. Try using a food processor and just pulse dough gently till formed.

2. Keep all fat and liquids cold so they stay separated.

3. Less liquid is better than more, and cold is better than warm.

4. When adding liquid don’t mix it in. toss it around so it collects all the flour-coated fat particles together and makes them stick to one another.

5. Poke holes in the top of the pie to vent steam to avoid a mushy pie and a messy oven.

Easy-as-Pie (no roll) Pie Crust

Recipe makes one 9-inch (bottom only) piecrust

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1-teaspoon unrefined sea salt

2 tablespoons cane sugar

1/2 cup light oil

2 tablespoons ice cold milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Using a sifter over a pie plate, sift together flour, salt, and sugar. In a cup, beat together oil and milk and pour over the flour mixture. Using a fork, quickly blend just enough to moisten flour then press into pie plate. Prick all over with a fork then bake at for 15 minutes. Fill as desired.

Fry Hand Pie Crust

Makes two 9-inch pie Crusts

3 cups all-purpose flour, chilled

1 cup trans-fat-free Crisco, chilled

1 teaspoon unrefined sea salt

1 teaspoon butter, chilled

1 egg, chilled

1/3 cup cold water

1 teaspoon vinegar

Using pastry blender or food processor, cut flour into Crisco and salt. Add egg, water, and vinegar. Mix well then roll out on a lightly-floured surface. Cut into desired sizes then add filling of your choice to one side of the dough. Wet outer edge of dough then fold dough over and, using fingers or fork, pinch/crimp pie dough closed to form small pillows.

Fry in hot, 350-degree oil, and drain on paper, or spray hand pies with cooking spray on both sides, and bake or air fry at 375 degrees until brown and crispy.

The Best Butter Pie Crust

Recipe makes two 9-inch crusts

3 cups all-purpose or pastry flour, chilled

1 cup butter, cut into pats, then chilled

1 egg yolk, chilled

7 tablespoons water, chilled

1 teaspoon vinegar, chilled

1 tablespoon cane sugar, chilled

1/2 teaspoon unrefined sea salt

Place pastry cutter or blade of a food processor in freezer until chilled. Using cold pastry cutter or processor, cut cold butter into flour until the consistency of tiny peas.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk, vinegar, and water. Gently stir egg/water mixture into the flour mixture until moistened, and the dough holds together. Gather into a ball, divide into two; cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for one or more hours before rolling/use.