COLUMNISTS

Berries are a perfect pick in Wisconsin

Julia Nunes
The fun doesn’t end with berry picking – there are many ways to use them long after you’ve picked the perfect bunch by either canning, freezing or using them fresh in desserts.

Summer in Wisconsin brings endless possibilities for fun, but one is berry special.  Whether it’s strawberries, blueberries, or Wisconsin’s famous cherries, there’s a bounty of opportunities to visit local farms across the state to pick your own pail of berries. No matter your favorite berry, there’s something for everyone. By berry picking, you are also supporting your local farms and community.

Wisconsin ranks fourth in the nation for cherry production, harvesting 1,600 acres of cherry trees in 2019, producing over 9 million pounds of cherries. On average, 7,000 cherries will be harvested from each tree.

The most common variety of tart cherry grown in the United States is the Montmorency tart cherry. These cherries are harvested each year from mid-July to early August. The cherry’s name comes from a valley in the northern suburbs of Paris, France, where tart cherries were first cultivated in the 18th century.

Today, more than 94% of Montmorency tart cherries consumed in the U.S. are grown domestically. The top producing tart-cherry states include Michigan, Utah, Washington, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

On average, 7,000 cherries will be harvested from each tree.

Fresh berries are a summer delicacy in many regions of Wisconsin; customers rush to berry patches in the early morning to get the first pick. In 2017, over 860 acres of strawberries and 350 acres of blueberries were harvested from Wisconsin farms.

The fun doesn’t end with berry picking – there are many ways to use them long after you’ve picked the perfect bunch. Consider extending the summer fun by freezing your berries.

To do this, wash your berries in cold water, then remove any stems or berries that may be spoiled. Next, spread your berries on a cookie sheet and stick it in the freezer. Once the berries are frozen, remove them from the cookie sheet and transfer them into a freezer bag. Your berries are now ready to be enjoyed long after summer is over. Frozen berries are a sweet treat all year long, and they pair perfectly with a scoop of delicious Wisconsin ice cream.

Fresh berries are a summer delicacy in many regions of Wisconsin; customers rush to berry patches in the early morning to get the first pick.

Another way to use your berries is by creating a delectable dessert, like a no-bake berry cheesecake in a jar. It’s a simple way to indulge in your fresh fruit.

No-Bake Berry Cheesecake in a Jar

1 ½ cups of crushed graham crackers

½ cup of melted butter

¼ cup of sugar.

1 ½ cups of heavy cream

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

⅔ cup sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

After crushing graham crackers, place in bowl and add melted butter and sugar. Press a quarter of the mixture into the bottom of a glass jar of your choosing.

In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream until it forms whipped cream. Add powdered sugar to taste. Combine whipped cream with softened cream cheese.

Once well mixed, add ⅔ cup of sugar and vanilla extract to the mixture. When well blended, scoop a quarter of the cream cheese mixture into the glass jar. Finish by topping the jar with freshly picked berries and whipped cream. Be sure to store your berry-awesome desserts in the fridge.

Fresh berries - including blueberries - are a summer delicacy in many regions of Wisconsin

Whether you choose to visit Door County to pick Wisconsin’s famous cherries or head to your local farm for raspberries or blueberries, there’s no better – or sweeter – way to support Wisconsin agriculture.

Julia Nunes

Julia Nunes is Wisconsin's 74th Alice in Dairyland