By: Sue Palmisano
Cherries, Apples and Pumpkins- Oh my!
Fall is such a beautiful time of year with all the colors changing. It is the perfect time of year to visit King Orchard in Central Lake. Courtney King, Manager, took some time out of her day to give us a tour of one of their stores, farm and production facility. John and Betsy King started the orchard in 1980 and grow over 400 acres of fruit and vegetables between their two farms in Central Lake and Kewadin.
While exploring the farm, Courtney shared that King Orchard has 20 different varieties of apples and focus is on a few select varieties that do especially well in this region. Most apples are typically grown on very large trees that are aging and have been cultivated for over 75 years. The newest type of apple trees that King Orchard’s has begun planting are called Dwarfing trees. These trees are much smaller & thinner making it easier to pick the apples without having to use a ladder. Some popular apples harvested at King Orchards are Northern Spy, Cortland, McIntosh and Honeycrisp.
Why is the Honeycrisp apple so common and such a popular apple? Honeycrisp apples love the Michigan climate with the Lake Michigan air and the cold air drainage that happens in the region.
Besides apples, they have a diverse variety of other fruits and vegetables that are grown on their farm, such as; raspberries, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, asparagus, squash and of course cherries. Northern Michigan is the largest producer of maraschino cherries. King’s sweet and tart cherries also grow on the dwarfing trees among the older large trees.
Have you ever heard of Montmorency tart cherry juice? The tart cherries that are used in this juice are high in fiber, potassium, beta carotene and antioxidants which translates into good nutrition. The flavor of the tart cherry is somewhat sweet and tangy. In order to fit tart cherries into your daily routine King Orchard produces cherry juice concentrate and manufacture a capsule made from powdered tart cherries. The fresh and frozen tart sweet cherries are sold wholesale, retail and you can even order the products online from the website: www.kingorchards.com. They work with over 350 craft beer breweries in the nation and if you drink a beer made with cherries there is a very good chance that you are drinking Kings cherry juice in your beer.
Family traditions make a perfect opportunity to make a visit to King Orchards. Family and small farming are an important part of our community because they provide and enhance natural resources for our environment. King has a U-Pick farm which allows you to pick as many different varieties you like while experiencing the orchard. Kids and adults love this opportunity to be outdoors and explore the farm.
While you are exploring, do not forget to check out their store front that has everything you are looking for already picked and ready to purchase. Not to mention the smell of hot fresh delicious donuts fresh out of the fryer that will have the senses in an upward tingle.
The visit to the fruit orchard was a very enjoyable day to learn so much about the process of planting, cultivating and how the three generations of King family members are involved in the day to day operations of running the farm. Be sure to check it out! You will be glad you did!
They are located at 4620 M-88, Central Lake, MI 49622