Cherries retain firmness in high heat, show frost resistance
By DAN WHEAT
WENATCHEE, Wash. -- A new cherry variety of apparent promising potential is receiving closer scrutiny with its first commercial harvest.
Glory is a sweet cherry discovered eight years ago on Wenatchee's Stemilt Hill, which is famous for producing, reputedly, the best cherries in the world.
Grower and Stemilt Hill Church Pastor Gordon Goodwin thought there was something different when a tree he purchased as a Sonata from East Wenatchee's Van Well Nursery Inc. ripened about a month later than it should have.
Aug. 16, Goodwin did the first commercial picking of 33 bins of Glory on his Stemilt Hill orchard. His son-in-law, Eric Erb, harvested nine bins July 29 at his lower-elevation orchard near Malaga.
Packing at Columbia Fruit Packers Inc., in Wenatchee, verified what Goodwin has been saying about Glory, that it rates well in size, flavor and firmness.
"You can look at cherries on a tree and you naturally focus on the large ones and those of best color, but you don't really know what you have until they cross a cherry line (packing line)," said Pete Van Well, president of Van Well Nursery.
Glory averaged 308 in pressure or firmness during packing, and that was without hydrocooling which would have made it firmer, Van Well said. The hydrocooler had been shut down for the season, he said. Pressure of 270 or higher qualifies for export, he said.
Some 72 percent of the fruit was 9.5 row and larger, said Steve Castleman, the Columbia Marketing International salesman selling the fruit.
"Nine is big fruit. Eight (even larger) is very rare. Of the whole Northwest crop this year, 73 percent was 10.5 row and larger, 13 percent was 9.5 row and larger," he said.
Color was consistently good, which along with size and firmness is important, Van Well said.
Glory rated better than 20 in brix, or sugar content, giving it good flavor, said Mike Eurton, Columbia operations production manager.
"It's a big cherry. It looks good. Everything looks good. It's got a start," he said.
Van Well said he's excited about Glory's potential because growers want late cherries to extend the season and generally prices go up for late cherries.
About 180 20-pound boxes of Glory were shipped to a wholesaler in San Francisco for $40 per box to be sold through three retailers in San Francisco this weekend, Castleman said. Another 70 boxes of 11-row, the smallest of Glory, were going to Associated Grocers in Baton Rouge, La., he said.
Goodwin is owner of the new variety but has agreed to let Van Well patent Glory and begin selling trees to growers next spring and more in 2012. Goodwin will receive a yet-to-be-determined royalty on tree sales.
Glory is self-pollinating, stays firm in heat and its buds are frost resistant in spring, Goodwin said. Those are characteristics growers want, he said.
Most cherries get soft in hot weather and don't ship well. "Last year, it was 100 degrees for three weeks and Glory stayed firm," Goodwin said.
"My Bing, Skeena and Sweetheart all had 50 percent frost damage in late April and Glory had just 5 percent," he said. "That got Pete real interested."
Van Well already was testing it and had DNA testing done, confirming it is a distinct variety, not a Staccata, Sweetheart or other known late variety.
Goodwin has budded the tree to produce more. He now has 65. Some are third generation. Trees don't always maintain the same characteristics from generation to generation, but Glory held true on the second generation, which means it will on subsequent ones, Goodwin said.
Van Well budded trees also and is testing them in other locations of the state.
As pastor of Stemilt Hill Church, Goodwin gives God the glory for the discovery.
"Since he gave me the tree I want to give him the glory, so I named it Glory," he said.
He hopes it's the ultimate new cherry that growers are looking for, but said it takes time to determine that.