Bite: An early cherry season
Having survived April’s frost unscathed, cherries are early this year in Flanders and ripe for the picking
Not coincidentally, perhaps, they are also the only local producer to grow their cherries in a greenhouse. “In the Netherlands, it is commonplace to grow cherries in greenhouses, while this is not the practice in Belgium,” explains De Wilde. “But because the results are so good, we will continue to expand our operations.”
Notelteirs is an agricultural engineer who took over the fruit-growing business of his father about 16 years ago. Back then, he had 10 acres to work with; the area has more than doubled since. “With the experience I had in greenhouse cultivation, I decided to try my hand at growing organic cherries in a small corner of the greenhouse,” says De Wilde. “We had a nice harvest in just a few years.”
Cherry season started particularly early this year because of the mild winter. “I expect the season to peak between the third week of June and mid-July,” says Filip Lowette, general manager of the national fruit auction. “Luckily, April’s frost didn’t cause any major damage to the cherry blossoms.”
The cherry is a stone fruit and its tree belongs to the rose family. In Flanders, kers refers to a sweet cherry, the kind you just pop into your mouth. A sour cherry, or kriek, is equally popular, especially for incorporating into tarts, jams or the famous kriek beer.
In June and July, fruit producer Jacobs in Sint-Truiden opens its orchards to the public for cherry plucking. A tractor brings you to the trees heaviest with the fruit, where you can pick (and sneak a taste) to your heart’s content. All the cherries you collect get weighed and charged at a day price per kilogram. A full basket of cherries weighs 8kg and comes with a €4 discount. It is recommended to register in advance if you want to pluck on a Saturday.
Flemish agriculture and horticulture
percent of Belgium’s fruit harvest comes from Flanders
agriculture businesses in Flanders in 2011
people employed in Flemish agriculture and horticulture in 2011