As the AFS team enjoys another cherry season, the much-beloved fruit is making national news. 

Archaeologists recently discovered dozens of bottles containing perfectly preserved cherries and other berries at George Washington’s Mount Vernon home. The bottles were unearthed during a $40 million revitalization project expected to be completed in 2026. Archaeologists believe the bottles predate 1775, as the area was covered with a brick floor during an expansion of the house. Whole pieces of fruit, recognizable as cherries, were found in some bottles.  

Mount Vernon is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to conduct DNA testing on the fruit. Additionally, the USDA is examining more than 50 cherry pits recovered from the bottles to determine if any can be planted.  

While the USDA experiments with Washington’s centuries-old seeds, the harvest of sweet cherries is well under way according to AFS Produce Director Leigh Vaughn. Peak growing season runs from June to August. 

The Northwest Cherry Growers includes orchards in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, and Montana, with 2,500 growers in those states making up over 70 percent of the fresh cherries found in stores from mid-June through early September.  

“We partner with two of the top growers, and typically, they will sell 8 million boxes a year nationwide. They are invaluable partners in ensuring our stores receive top-quality cherries,” said Leigh. 

Utah was forecasted to produce 40 million pounds of tart cherries, up 22 percent from the previous year, with national production expected to reach 222 million pounds, a 34 percent increase from 2023. However, wind events this year are impacting the crop, that may result in a 30-50 percent reduction in supply, which means the season will likely come to a rapid close in the coming weeks. 

“Cherries are a vital part of our produce lineup. Their seasonal appeal and exceptional quality drive significant sales and customer satisfaction,” Leigh said. “Cherries are a crucial commodity for our stores and are the single highest dollar-per-square-foot item in July, driving valuable revenue and customer interest.” 

The cherries discovered at Mount Vernon, preserved for more than two and a half centuries, reflect a high caliber of preservation work and were likely bottled to be eaten simply as cherries. 

AFS also works hard to bring retailers and their customers the best products. Leigh says the AFS produce team aims for “ten row” cherries or larger. In the cherry industry, sizing is measured by “rows,” which refers to the number of cherries lined up side by side in a single layer within a shipping box. For example, cherries labeled as “ten-row” would mean there are approximately ten cherries arranged in one row across the box’s typical 12” diameter. 

“It’s fun to see cherries making the news,” said Leigh. “They were an important item for families back then and they continue to be important now.” 

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