I had the most amazing opportunity to be part of the Chelan Fresh Cherry Tour this year.
This post was sponsored by Chelan Fresh. My travel, accommodations and meals were all covered. I was not compensated by writing this post.
Sunday I went from NJ -> WA. I’ve never been to the west coast before and it’s safe to say, my first time here was a wonderful experience. I was invited to attend the Chelan Fresh Cherry Tour in Chelan, Washington.
Sunday was a long day of traveling. Of course, I had to pack some healthy travel snacks.
It’s crazy the power of a simple hashtag (#tourchelancherries) is. I had tweeted the day before about my travel plans and excitement about this trip. As I was waiting at the Seattle airport during my layover, Lori, aka The Produce Mom messaged me to meet up before the next flight. That’s when more and more attendees came together as we all were waiting together for our flight to Wenatchee.
Myself – Supermarket RD & Blogger
Amber Bloom – Public Relations & Social Media representative at Produce for Kids (twitter & instagram)
Amber Denmon – ShopRite Retail Registered Dietitian
McKenzie Hall – Registered Dietitian and co-founder of Nourish RDs, a nutrition communications and consulting company
Lindsey Kane – Healthy Eating Specialist and Registered Dietitian for Whole Foods Market, Philadelphia Metro Area
Lori Taylor – The Produce Mom, advocate for the fresh produce industry
Allison Kuhn – Kroger’s Corporate Dietitian
Sylvia Melendez Klinger – Registered Dietitian and founder of Hispanic Food Communications
A limo picked us up and we were whisked away to the beautiful Campbell’s Resort for the fun to begin. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner together getting to know each other. It’s really great to learn more about others in the same industry.
With the time difference and all travel that day, I hit the hay early that night. We had a lot on the agenda for the next day!
The next morning I woke up refreshed and sipped coffee while enjoying the gorgeous view from my balcony.
I headed down to the Campbell’s Resort Bistro to meet the group. I was eyeing the the portobello Benedict with roasted red peppers, cherry tomato, spinach, mushrooms, poached eggs in a portobello mushroom cap with hollandaise sauce. I definitely have to recreate this again.
After breakfast, we headed to Chelan Fruit Test Orchard Tour and had the pleasure of Harold Schell, Horticulturalist speak to us. He explained to us that it takes 3 years for an apple tree to produce apples. It’s amazing how advanced technology is and the irrigation system they had equipped in their orchards. The apple trees are watered once a week due to the dry climate using a drip irrigation which feed fertilizer and nutrients to the trees automatically.
There is going to be a new apple of the market in the next couple of years – the Sugar Bee Apple. They are still in the process of testing and there is not currently enough to sell nationwide at this time. It’s a non-gmo “open cross” meaning the known mother seed comes from a honey crisp apple, but it is unknown of what the father seed is from bee cross pollinization.
It’s rumored that it’s better than a honeycrisp, which I don’t even know how that is even possible! I did not get the chance to try one, but I am excited for a new apple to come into town.
.. And I made a new fur-friend named Annie!
Next stop was at Gebber’s Farms Warehouse for a tour. At Gebber’s Farms Warehouse all cherries and picked, processed, and packaged all within the same day. They go through a vigorous process in order to be determined if they are to perfection to be packaged. So when any customer ever complains how expensive cherries are, it’s because of the detail and precision that goes into the process to ensure you are getting the best cherries. Peak cherry season is June – August.
Did you know? – After it rains a helicopter hovers over the cherry trees enough for the excess moisture will fall off the cherries, which help prevent the cherries flesh from splitting.
Cherries are sorted into different bags based on their size. There is a cherry sizer chart to determine what batch they belong to. This is done manually and mechanically.
At one point during processing, each cherry has it’s photo taken at all angles and a computer software system can instantly detect any deformities and then it is determined if it will be kept or discarded for repurposing. Our group called it the #cherryselfie!
Any cherries with abnormalities, not able to be packaged are used for cherry juice or dried cherries. No cherries go to waste!
The warehouse tour was really fascinating! After the tour we headed over to the Stenne’s Family Homestead for lunch. Their family opened up their home to us for us to learn more about their family owned business in agriculture. Their family has passed on the family business from generation to generation and has significantly grown with their hard work and dedication. With only starting out with 25 acres of land to now 600 acres of land growing pears, apples, and cherries, I would say that is quite a success.
It was so refreshing to hear them talk about how passionate they are about their family and business dynamic and how it works for them. They have now also ventured into organic farming.
…. And their family can make an amazing berry crisp!
After lunch, we stopped at a sushi restaurant, where they showed us how to make fruit sushi! Typical nori (seaweed) doesn’t really work with fruit sushi and their sweet and savory flavors tend to clash. Instead they used soy paper, with a very neutral taste to wrap the fruit sushi. The soy paper is naturally colored using spices. The turmeric soy paper has a vibrant yellow tone.
Also, Rachelle and E.A. Weymuller, from Caramelize Life, were there giving up tips and tricks when presenting food, how to make it visually appealing. This was a great session that I will definitely use when food demoing at work.
E.A. had some really awesome photography tips and tricks. I recently purchased my first DSLR camera and still have now idea half the time what I am doing. I don’t want to jinx myself, but I am starting to get comfortable using it in a manual setting.
That evening we dined at Vin du Lac Winery. We took a tour of the property while sipping on their many variety of wines.
Everything on the menu that evening was locally sourced. The chef did an amazing job. Each part of the menu was paired with one of their wines.
I was pretty full, and remember thinking “i’ll only have a few bites”. I have a weakness for apple crumble and enjoyed every. last. bite. #sorrynotsorry. The apples were so sweet and tender.
We had a discussion during the orchard tour that golden delicious apple crops are becoming less and less because they are not as popular anymore. I’ve never really used golden delicious apples in baking before, but everyone raved how amazing they were baked and didn’t get mealy like other high moisture apples tend to do.
After a jam packed day, this was the perfect way to end the day.
Then next morning, we went to Blueberry Hills for breakfast and blueberry picking. Kari Sorenson, spoke to us about their sustainability. They are open all year round and utilize every part of their crops.
Kari repurposes all the leaves from the trees or excess blueberries after season. She created a blueberry powder. Her blueberry powder is different than others on the market. She uses the whole blueberry keeping it’s antioxidant level high with also keeping it’s delicious blueberry taste. Other only use the skin which loses it’s flavor and also valuable nutrients.
Kari also uses the blueberry leaves and created various tea varieties. You can visit her online shop here.
We went blueberry picking after breakfast. I’ve never gone blueberry picking before and couldn’t believe how sweet and delicious they were right off the tree.
A few clusters of the blueberries were huge, about the size of a quarter.
I snacked on so many blueberries that morning, I felt like I was going to turn into Violet, like in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
The best stop was saved for last. We went to the cherry warehouse the day before, but this day we were directly to the cherry orchards where all those cherries were picked from.
Did you know ? – You are supposed to pick the cherries from the stem, leaving the spur in tack on the tree. The spur needs to remain in order to let that tree grow cherries again for the next year.
Picking cherries is a very delicate process and workers are trained how to pick properly. All these cherries are hand picked and I can’t believe how fast and skilled the Chelan Fresh workers were. Within a matter of minutes a bucket of cherries was filled, loaded into a larger bin and immediately shipped out from the orchard to cool before going to the warehouse to be processed and packaged that day.
The workers were done for the day, carrying their ladders and equipment up the hill after a long morning of cherry picking, which meant our day at the cherry orchard was wrapping up too.
I had mentioned during the trip how much I LOVE rainier cherries, which are yellow in color with a hint of pinkish red. We pulled over on the side of the road driving out of the orchard and Dan grabbed me a branch from the tree to snack on.
What a wonderful couple of days. Good food, good company, and the complete Chelan Fresh experience!
A big thank you to Mac Riggins, Marketing Director at Chelan Fresh, Kathryn Grady, manages Chelan Fresh Marketing, and Lorinda Oscarson for making this a remarkable experience that I will continue to share what I learned with others.