The Victorian cherry season has just begun, but its growers are predicting a bumper year. CherryHill Orchards' director Stephen Riseborough: "We're up and away. It's been raining through the winter, the dams are full and it's looking really good."
Commenting on last year's season, Riseborough said: "The drought was tough for everyone and cherries are no exception. They don't like it too dry. Cherries like gentle weather for harvesting, without extremes of heat or too much rain," he says. "If we get rain, we put in helicopters and fans to dry the fruit to stop it splitting."
CherryHill has farms in Cobram, the Goulburn Valley, Tolmie in the High Country and Wandin East in the Yarra Valley, with 30 different cherry varieties ripening in succession. The first to come in are Merchant, a medium cherry with dark red skin and golden-red flesh. Around Christmas time, larger cherries such as Regina with firm red flesh and juicier Sweet Georgia are more common.
Pricing is very dynamic, with export markets important. "We love selling into China," Riseborough told goodfood.com.au. "The Chinese like Australian cherries so we are hopeful we can do good business there."
He's also hopeful of a strong year for pick-your-own cherries, with his family's Wandin East property part of a nine-farm Cherry Trail that spans the Yarra Valley, Upper Goulburn Valley, Macedon Ranges and Mornington Peninsula.