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5 Holiday Entertaining Tips

Friday, December 8, 2017 9:13:26 AM America/Detroit

This month, we’re sharing five holiday entertaining tips to help you create some extra special holiday cheer! And remember, a relaxed host is the best ingredient to get any party started. 

  1. Create a Signature Holiday Cocktail: Personalize your party by making a special cocktail that reflects your personality. For example, if you’re a chocolate lover, make a “Cocoa Lover’s Dream” by mixing raspberry liqueur and creme de cacao with hot chocolate, then top with fresh whipped cream and a fresh berry. Love the fall? Create a “Pumpkin Pie Martini.” More of a wine connoisseur? How about a sangria with a champagne twist? Serve your signature drinks in large serving bowls so guests can serve themselves. This helps you mingle more and manage less during the party. Source: HGTV
  2. Host a Pie Party: Seriously, who doesn’t love pie? A pie-themed party can be a wonderful way to take the “fancy” edge off the holidays. This is a great idea for a potluck party because it makes it easy for people to know exactly what they should bring. It’s also a nice ice-breaker for guests who don’t know each other, you can always talk about your favorite flavor.  Added bonus – pies can be sweet or savory! 
  3. Pass the Cheese Board: We’re a little obsessed with cheeseboards this year. You simply can’t go wrong by combining cheese, nuts, dried fruit, crackers, bread and spreads on a gorgeous wood platter. We had fun with this “Cheese Board Builder” by Castello Cheese to find out our perfect pairings.  Answer a few simple questions and voila, it creates a personalized board just for you. 
  4. Interactive Food Stations:  Say goodbye stuffy sit-down dinners and say hello adventure stations! Encourage your guests to “play with their food” and take them around the world by setting up a few global cuisine stations. A taste of Italy could include a customized gourmet pizza station, you can add some Vietnamese flavor with a Phở station or evoke a French patisserie with a cookie decorating station.
  5. Focus on what you love— outsource the rest: A great party starts with a happy (not stressed) host. That might mean devoting your time to one main course or a show-stopping dessert, and “outsourcing” the other dishes to guests or your local deli counter.

Happy entertaining, and please pass the cranberry bark!

Posted By Jordan Fekete

Thanksgiving: Let Your Sides Shine!

Monday, November 20, 2017 10:22:36 AM America/Detroit

Many cooks focus on brining, baking, basting, and deep frying their main dishes into perfection during the holiday season. But it’s also a great time to play with your fruits and veggies and let your side dishes shine!  

Beyond Green Bean Casserole
While your spread is likely to feature some variation of Aunt Margaret’s favorite green bean casserole, consider adding some unique side dishes to the table. Check out these fun and festive recipe ideas from Popsugar including Brussels Sprout Salad with Pomegranate, Walnuts and Jalapeno and Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes and Candied Acorn Squash Rings (https://www.popsugar.com/food/Unique-Thanksgiving-Side-Dishes-32388172

Stuffing Versus Dressing
Do you know the different between stuffing and dressing?  Stuffing is cooked inside of the bird and dressing is cooked outside of the bird. Peoples preferences are often based on texture and tradition. Whether you are #teamstuffing or #teamdressing, remember to add flavorful dried fruit to your mix.

Food, Wine and Travel blogger Marlynn Schotland of Urbanblisslife made this tasty dressing recipe featuring our dried cranberries and cherries in her Thanksgiving recipe: Wild Rice Dressing with Cranberries, Cherries, and Pecans. Get the recipe at https://www.gracelandfruit.com/recipes/wild-rice-dressing.html

Your friends and family will surely “gobble gobble” this one up!

Posted By Jordan Fekete

Happy National Cranberry Month!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017 10:32:51 AM America/Detroit

All About Cranberries

Did you know that Wisconsin is the leading producer of cranberries, with over half of U.S. production (Massachusetts is #2)?  I held these colorful, deep red berries in my hand last week when I visited one of our Wisconsin-based growers’ bogs during the peak of harvest season. Our growers harvest millions of pounds of cranberries every autumn when the small but mighty berries reach their prime. 

Happy Harvesting

Most people are familiar with seeing the bright red cranberries floating in large bogs filled with water. This is called “wet harvesting” where growers flood the bog with up to 18 inches of water the night before the berries are harvested with a machine that gently agitates the water to loosen the cranberries from the vine.  An air pocket helps the berry float to the surface of the water where the berries are collected, loaded into trucks and taken to a processing facility, one step closer to becoming the delicious dried Graceland Fruit you’ll find at your local grocery store.  

Super Fruits

As far as healthy foods go, dried cranberries are near the top of the list due to their high nutrient and antioxidant content. Our dried cranberries are gluten-free, allergen-free, Non-GMO and contain no artificial colors or flavors.  They are a great source of fiber and promote heart health giving them the commercial status as a “super fruit.”

Cran-tastic Recipes

Adding dried cranberries to your favorite recipes is an easy way to get a nutritional boost. From baked cranberry oatmeal to herbed cranberry chicken to no-bake almond cranberry energy bars, you’ll find delicious, family-friendly recipes here on our website. 

Enjoy the cranberry goodness!

~Jordan

Posted By Jordan Fekete

Organic Options Coming to You!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017 11:43:26 AM America/Detroit

Organic food products continue to rise in popularity among home shoppers and food manufacturers alike. And rightly so; organic products take a unique approach to the growing process to ensure that end consumers are getting the purest form of the foods they know and love. What does organic mean to us here at Graceland Fruit? A continued commitment to our belief that everyone deserves access to the taste and wholesomeness of fresh fruit all year long. While sourcing local, sustainably grown fruit has always been a part of Graceland’s business model, the addition of organic processes adds yet another quality component that allows us to offer consumers products that align with their food values. Reasons to ‘go organic’ are abundant; those that make the top of our list are included below:

  1. Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution.
  2. Buying organic limits exposure to pesticide residues.
  3. The organic label bans or severely restricts the use of food additives, processing aids, and fortifying agents (examples include preservatives and artificial sweeteners).
  4. Organic food (especially produce) is often in-season at time of purchase, making it more nutrition-dense and likewise, tastier!
  5. Buying organic supports healthier communities, starting with our farmers. As stated by the Huffington Post, “a farm is certainly a healthier place for farmers to work when they are not exposed to synthetic fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides as they labor.”

Drumroll please! We’re thrilled to begin offering the dried cherries and cranberries that you know and love in organic form starting summer 2017! Stay on the lookout for these products coming to a shelf near you and make sure to check back here for updates.

Posted By Jordan Fekete

2017 National Cherry Festival Top Ten

Tuesday, February 21, 2017 9:08:57 PM America/Detroit

Finishing off National Cherry Month with a bang, we’re bringing you the best ways to enjoy a week-long celebration of our favorite fruit. If you live anywhere near Traverse City, Michigan you are very familiar with the seven-day cherry extravaganza that takes place in July each year: National Cherry Festival. The National Cherry Festival is unique due to the fact that its main purpose is to celebrate the local cherry growing region of Traverse City, yet the event attracts festival goers from all around the world. Why is this so?

 Since its recognition as a national celebration in 1931, the National Cherry Festival has continued to provide cherry-centric entertainment for all ages. From Air Shows, to concerts on the Bay Side Music Stage, to cherry pit spitting contests, to appearances by the festival’s official mascot, Graceland Fruit’s Super Cherry, not to mention numerous foodie events and the crowning of the annual National Cherry Queen, you won’t find a dull moment in the entirety of the week-long event. So how can you make the most of your time at the National Cherry Festival this year? We’ve got you covered.

 We’ve compiled ideas from veteran festival goers here at Graceland Fruit along with tips from Michelle Elliot, National Cherry Festival’s Business Development Manager, to give you ten key reminders and things to do for a memorable, cherry-filled trip.  

  1. Book your hotel EARLY! Local hotels fill up quickly with 500,000 festival goers flooding the city! Use the Traverse City Visitors Center to help find the right hotel for you and your family.
  2. Utilize public transportation. Parking is a major hassle (unless you have a clearance pass). Utilize the FREE BATA Shuttle Service (running 10AM-midnight) with buses making loops every 30 minutes between downtown and “Park and Ride” locations. Find additional information on BATA’s website.
  3. Plan daily activities ahead of time. The National Cherry Festival website provides you with a detailed schedule of events that will allow you to pre-select and prepare for the events that most intrigue you.
  4. Upon entering, grab some fresh cherries, dried cherries, and any other type of cherry and walk around the main Festival grounds. Explore the different vendors sporting delicious local finds.
  5. Participate in pit spitting and pie eating.
  6. Watch one (or both) of the parades! Both the Touchstone Energy Junior Royale Parade and the DTE Energy Foundation Cherry Royale Parade are great options to see some awesome floats and grab free giveaways.
  7. Check out the awesome (and usually free) Kids Events (make sure you find Graceland Fruit’s Super Cherry!).
  8. Check out a concert (or two) on the Bayside Music Stage.
  9. Partake in any new events offered! This year, check out the Red, White and Indigo Blue strolling wine tour as well as the fan favorite Air Show.
  10. Stay healthy and participate in the Meijer Festival of Races 5k, 10k, 15k or Half Marathon (and run through a few of our beautiful cherry orchards!).

We hope to see you this summer in Traverse City, July 1st -8th, to celebrate everything that makes cherry country so great!

 

Posted By Jordan Nye

Cherry Grower Spotlight: Sunblossom Orchards

Thursday, February 16, 2017 9:27:30 AM America/Detroit

This week we had the pleasure of speaking to one of our very own local growers, Jim Nugent. Jim has grown up in the cherry growing business and has a unique background of experience (owning his farm in Suttons Bay, MI) blended with a lifetime of continued education (Jim spent many years working with MSU Extension carrying out research that pertained to the cherry industry). It was our pleasure to get the grower angle in order to share with you how important these small orchards are to the vitality of cherry country here in Northern Michigan. With that, we’ll let Jim do the talking.  

Q: Please state the name of your orchard and its location. What is the size?

Sunblossom Orchards located in Suttons Bay, MI. We are a small grower (30 acres of tart cherries + sweet cherries).

Q: How did you start cherry growing? Did this start as a family business or a personal endeavor?

My wife and I bought first orchard in 1980 and our current orchard in the fall of 1985. For many years, she ran the orchard; I ha da  full time job with MSU extension and research) working with the cherry industry. Due to this I was very familiar with the industry, all the way from production through marketing. Initially, our orchard also had apples and peaches but overtime, we decided to just focus on cherries, downsizing our operation. I’ve been retired from MSU extension for 10 years now, so currently I do the bulk of running the farm.  

Q: What does a normal year look like in the business of cherry growing? Which is the most interesting month?

In winter, we get the orchards pruned and ready for next year, cutting trees back so that they get enough sunlight in, which keeps them healthy and producing good fruit. Once the snow melts and growth begins, we move into growing season, first making sure we have good fertility through the trees, managing diseases and insects, on into harvest time which spans from late July to early August for the Suttons Bay area. Harvest is when you see the fruits of your labor, it’s definitely the most hectic time, but once harvest is over, we still have to manage the trees and keep them in good health. For example, we have to keep leaves on the trees post-harvest since the fruit buds that produce next year’s crop begin forming two weeks after the previous year’s bloom. This really determines the quantity and quality of consecutive year’s crops.

Cherry growing is a multi-year process; essentially, planting an orchard is a decision that you make for a 30-year cycle. During the first five years, the orchard typically does not bear fruit. Harvest will begin in about year six and continue until the orchar gets too old and unproductive, which usually happens about age 30. Post-harvest, we ensure there is a good reserve of carbohydrates and nutrients in the trees so that they are hardy enough to survive our winters. It’s very different growing a perennial crop versus an annual crop, which makes you focus on the vitality of the tree year over year.

Q: Name three words to describe the business of cherry growing.

  1. Risky. Cherries are very susceptible to late frost in the spring and the weather during bloom, I can remember two years we had very little fruit, specifically in 2002 you couldn’t have picked enough cherries in our orchard to make a cherry pie.
  2. Challenging. I enjoy the challenge of trying to make everything work to produce a good yield and exceptional quality fruit.
  3. Enjoyable. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t enjoy it, it’s been in my blood since I was a kid on the farm. I can’t imagine just going south in the winter and leaving the orchards behind.

Q: How has the business of growing changed over the years? What is the biggest concern of growers today?

The two biggest changes I can think of include in the 1930’s when pitters were developed (before that time, cherries were canned hole with pits), which really added to the ways that cherries could be sold in the market and secondly in the late 1960’s, when the harvest was mechanized allowing us to grow cherries with greater efficiency and much less labor. It would have been very difficult to compete globally since cherries are a truly global market had this not taken place. One of the more exciting areas of research currently includes whether or not we can grow cherries in higher density systems. The advantage that this would bring includes production starting sooner on trees and a multitude of other things that could give farmers more of a yield, more quickly.

Q: What’s the best thing about Northern Michigan cherries?

Michigan grows 75% of the nation’s tart cherries with nearly 50% of the US production grown in Northwestern Michigan within a 60-mile radius of Traverse City. The tart cherry crop is really well suited to our climate (Lake Michigan cools us in the spring which delays bud development and gets buds past the critical phase for frost). Likewise, the Montmorency (tart cherry) crop does not like excessive heat so Lake Michigan also works to cool us in the summer. We truly are the IDEAL climate for growing this fruit. What makes us stand out as the cherry growing region is the quantity and quality of the cherries produced.

Q: What is special or interesting about your orchard/ operation?

My orchard is the place where I can take information that I’ve learned and will continue to learn and put it into practice. It’s rewarding to see the fruit of my labor and the knowledge transforming into the crop, it really culminates at harvest time when you see the nice quantity and quality of fruit- it’s really something you can be proud of.

Q: How does your orchard depend on the local community or Northern Michigan in its entirety?

In many ways. We have a research station in Northwestern Michigan that is very unique. It was founded by the growers here and given to MSU to operate. It’s a center for new information generation and dissemination through the industry and also has a very nice conference facility where we host many industry meetings, from multiple grower meetings to international conferences. This industry has always been willing to share information and knowledge. It really helps all of us. With about 75% of the production coming from Michigan and the remainder spread out over six other states,  there’s really no one else in North America doing very much research in tart cherries so the industry looks to us for leadership in production techniques and management.

 Additionally, when it comes to marketing and promoting the crop, there’s virtually no fresh market (they are too soft to be shipped, they’re actually harvested in water to keep from bruising). We have to work with processors that can get the crop pitted and frozen and into a sellable form (like dried!) The grower/ processor relationship is very important, every company has their own marketing niches but overall for the industry, we have a very good promotion program through the Cherry Marketing Institute, choosecherries.com, that can do the things that we individual growers can’t. They fund a lot of studies on the health benefits of cherries. Historically, we were growing for just the dessert market, but now as we look to the future it’s important for the industry to look for ways to reposition itself, such as in the dried and juice market. We’ve been able to make tremendous strides to reposition this industry to stay viable for the future.

Q: What is the most exciting thing about being a grower? The most frustrating?

I enjoy all of it, especially growing young trees. I enjoy the science of growing, the challenge of integrating the science of production with the economic reality of farming. You’re always dealing with different situations and issues according to season. However, there’s really no better time to be in the orchard than in bloom. The smell of the blossoms, the hum of the bees that we bring in from a local beekeeper to pollinate, it’s great to walk through and to take it all in.

The most frustrating aspect would have to be new invasive insect, Spotted Wing Drosophila. It’s a big challenge to the cherry industry. We have a research center adamantly working on solutions, especially in the last two years.  

Q: What piece of information or knowledge do you wish you could share with the general public about cherry growing?

First, I would sure love to have more people appreciate the breadth of the health benefits that we have in cherries. There are really significant health benefits, some that are not found in many products, particularly a cherry’s anti-inflammatory properties and the melatonin found in Montmorency cherries.

Second, everyone should understand the complexity involved. The thing that is least understood is what it takes to grow cherries, the amount of investment and risk and the amount of knowledge needed. It’s a very fragile fruit that is quite responsive to weather and influenced by the site you put it on. It’s not just a matter of planting the trees and waiting to pick the fruit. It’s all about producing something that is truly a fun crop, that has health benefits and also has great flavor.

Thanks Jim, for your time and insight into such a special part of what make Northern Michigan a unique and exhilarating place to work and play! Enjoy pictures of Sunblossom Orchards below. 

Posted By Jordan Nye

Chewy Cherry Baked Oatmeal for Heart Health

Tuesday, February 7, 2017 10:42:17 AM America/Detroit

Delicious and good for your heart? Graceland dried cherries boast more than a tart, tangy flavor. They also enable you to reach your heath and wellness goals by offering a low sodium, cholesterol-free ingredient and snack food option. Cherries promote heart health through a powerful array of antioxidants (more than red wine or dark chocolate!) as well as anthocyanins, which are responsible for lowering cholesterol, triglycerides and reducing inflammation.1 This can lead to clearer arteries and healthy weight loss. Looking for new ways to incorporate dried cherries into your diet? Test out the baked oatmeal recipe below for a scrumptious, heart-friendy breakfast or brunch!

Ingredients:

1 cup rolled oats
1 heaping cup berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc.)
1/3 cup Graceland dried cherries
1/4 cup non-fat greek yogurt
1 egg
1 tbsp unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut (shredded)
Honey (for drizzling)

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. In a personal-sized ceramic baking bowl, add oats, egg, greek yogurt, and fruit. Fold in until combined. Add dried cherries, almond milk, and coconut. Fold in again until additional ingredients are combined. Drizzle honey on top of mixture. Place in the oven for 25 minutes or until top is crispy and golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool 5-10 minutes. Garnish with excess fruit and dried cherries. Top with a sprinkle of coconut and enjoy!

1. http://www.onegreenplanet.org/natural-health/the-many-benefits-of-cherries-for-your-heart-health-weight-and-more/

Posted By Jordan Nye

Kickoff to National Cherry Month!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017 10:37:48 AM America/Detroit

In celebration of National Cherry Month, we're kicking off with a look at the wonderful process of cherry harvest and grading that creates delicious Graceland dried fruit from these Northern Michigan treasures. Late summer marks an exciting time for us here at Graceland Fruit. Cherry harvest is in full swing and with that comes a round-the-clock process of shaking, loading, trucking, and grading at our facilities and throughout the surrounding area. Have you ever wondered how one of those fresh, plump berries ends up as a tasty topping on your morning oatmeal? You’ve come to the right place.
                                                                                                                                                                                                           
As natives of cherry country, we’re no stranger to long drives past landscapes of fruitful orchards. Graceland Fruit was actually started (over 40 years ago!) by a co-op of cherry farmers who envisioned a process of drying fruit for year-round enjoyment. Their deep knowledge from years of planting, tending, protecting, and harvesting has shaped our drying process into what it is today. That being said, we now know that the first and most important step of obtaining a delectable dried tart cherry is a strong, healthy cherry harvest. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                     
What really matters to us here at Graceland Fruit is the quality of fruit coming into “the pad” to be graded and used for dried cherry production. Graceland uses Grade A cherries in our drying process, so we sample each shipment that we receive from area farmers to test a handful of measures including color, size, absence of blemishes, foreign material, and others. This allows us to ensure that the fruit you’re enjoying is top notch from farm to table. Fruit that doesn’t make the cut is sent off for other uses. Winners continue on to be pitted and primed for use in our manufacturing process. And while the drying process is a story for another day, it wouldn’t exist without the long hours of dedication that farmers invest year-round in the most uncertain of industries: Mother Nature. We’re thankful for our partners in the cherry industry who continue to allow us to bring you an exceptional finished product daily. Here’s to a month of fruitful celebration!
A farmer prepping the shaking mechanism to harvest mature fruit from one of the many trees in his orchardView from the top of the shakerCherry galore!"The pad" where all of our cherries are collected and gradedFreshly harvested cherries being firmed for transportation
Posted By Jordan Nye

Healthy Winter Salad feat. Graceland Dried Cherries

Thursday, January 19, 2017 8:55:56 AM America/Detroit

Check out this video recipe to create a delicious Orange and Dried Cherry Cous Cous Salad!Read More
Posted By Jordan Nye

The Montmorency Difference

Wednesday, September 14, 2016 11:30:27 AM America/Detroit

A cherry is a cherry is a cherry, right? Well, not exactly. Learn all about the Montmorency Tart Cherry.Read More
Posted By Chuck Lombardo
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