Local Food Matters
A popular story tells of six-year-old George Washington, our first president, busy with his small new hatchet, chopping down his father’s cherry tree.
When confronted by his father, George tearfully confesses, “I cannot tell a lie; I did it.” Ironically, this story is not true, but was created to underscore the virtues of the American hero after he died.
But it makes me wonder: What happened to the cherries?
Like all farmers, cherry growers live with precarious finances. They take out loans to get through the growing season, hoping and praying that their harvest will be enough to pay back the loans and perhaps net a profit. Weather, fluctuating prices, and fickle customers are among the many things a farmer can’t control and can mean the difference between a modest profit and losing the farm.
According to Gary Snow, a former cherry grower and now owner of the Tabletree juice company, as much as 40 percent of a grower’s cherries can be reduced to unsellable culls. Sometimes, the size of the cherries makes it obvious they aren’t even worth picking that year.
After several years of growing cherries in Creston, British Columbia, Gary and his wife, Susan, realized they could salvage culled cherries by juicing them. Beginning in 2010, they created machinery that did this efficiently, and soon they were selling the juice and winning awards. In 2012, competing against big names in the juice business like Tropicana and Coca-Cola, their cherry juice won the World’s Best Pure Juice Product award at the World Juice Conference in Barcelona, Spain.
In 2016, after selling their Canadian farm, Gary and Susan moved to Bigfork, Montana, near Flathead Lake and set up a juicing factory at Finley Point. As everyone in Montana who eats cherries knows, this is the prime spot for cherry growing. Delectable Flathead cherries are justly praised. More than 100 growers raise cherries here on about 700 acres of orchards.
Helping farmers is only one reason Gary
and Susan love what they do. Many customers send them testimonials about health issues that have been resolved by drinking a recommended 1 ounce of cherry juice daily. They can’t post these unverified health claims online, but Gary and Susan will be happy to send this information upon request. Many studies have shown the anti-inflammatory properties of cherries. One online post I found said cherries have the highest anti-inflammatory content of any food.
You can find recipes on the Tabletree website at http://www.tabletreejuice.com. Susan is working on a cookbook that will be available soon.
I can’t taste the honey and cinnamon added to the juice, so I wondered why it’s there. It’s only a trace amount, Gary said. Both honey and cinnamon act as preservatives and help the unopened bottle of juice stay shelf-stable for one year.
In Livingston, you can buy Tabletree Cherry Juice in two sizes — 8.5 ounces and 25 ounces — at the Copper Moose Oil & Vinegar Tap House at 316 East Park Street. Owner Kim Bonnell said she can hardly keep it in stock. She even ships the large size to an enthusiastic cherry-juice drinker in Idaho who claims it has helped a health problem. The Snows told Kim she is their biggest-selling retailer in Montana. But watch for it to be available soon at Costco and other markets throughout the state. Ask for it if you don’t see it, Gary advises.
Gary said they are working on adding a shopping cart to their website at http://www.tabletreejuice.com. In the meantime, you can request an order by filling in the form on the Online Sales page. Because of the cost of shipping glass bottles, consider buying a subscription to receive a 5 percent discount. I say you can’t go wrong with this option, because once you taste this juice, you’re going to want to have it on hand all the time.
While we’re on the subject, be sure to mark your calendar for the annual cherry festival in Polson on July 21 and 22. Find more information about this event at http://flatheadcherryfestival.com.