Most of Michigan's sweet cherry production is concentrated in the Traverse City area. Many of the golden sweet varieties are made into maraschino cherries. But in July and early August, the countryside around Traverse City is dotted with stands, markets and u-pick signs offering cartons of sweet, dark cherries. And sometimes the cherries soak in the ice cold water to keep them fresh.
Appreciation of the cherry has a long history. In 1924, the Traverse City area held a spring ceremony known as the "Blessing of the Blossoms" to celebrate the cherry and the region's affinity for it. The event eventually became the National Cherry Festival held in Traverse City each July.
Restaurants in Traverse City find dozens of ways to use cherries. The dried cherry in particular has achieved tremendous popularity in salads, baked goods, and pork and chicken dishes. For beef lovers watching their weight, a Leelanau County butcher has used them to create a low-fat hamburger/cherry mix that's popular in restaurants and cafés all over town. You will taste cherries at gourmet restaurants and small coffee shops and breakfast and lunch spots.