While in Kalispell, Montana, we made a side trip to Hockaday Orchards that advertises itself as: “One of the oldest U-Pick Orchards in the Flathead Valley”.
We hadn’t picked cherries before and didn’t really know what to expect. We love to experience the local flavor of different communities and along with showing up at farmers’ markets we decided why not show up at their farms as well, invited of course.
Through the Internet we located the Hockaday Orchard website and learned that the crop wasn’t ready yet, with a check back in a couple weeks banner across their web page. We did check back and, after many twists and turns in the road, along with ignoring (admittedly, with some trepidation) several “Keep Out – Private Property” signs, we showed up to the out of the way orchard ready to do battle with the cherry trees.
We met the owner and his son (who showed us where to park) and we could see a woman and two young girls hard at work picking cherries – this was obviously a family owned operation or child labor was in full effect in Montana. Not to worry; we confirmed the former, as the owner was all too happy to talk about the family business passed down through the generations. When we were asked how many thousands of pounds we wanted and our answer was “about five” the son smiled and handed us a bucket that he said would hold five pounds when we filled it up. There were literally thousands of pounds of ripe red cherries waiting to be picked and we were directed to a tree with a ready ladder stretching high up into the tree branches. Enjoying ourselves we returned to the shed for another bucket and ended up with nine pounds of beautiful cherries in no time. The cherries were incredibly sweet and juicy and we enjoyed handfuls on the way back to our campsite. We pitted enough for a couple of pies and froze a couple of pounds to enjoy later with ice cream.
The rest were consumed in a matter of days! Oh and the best part is that the cherries cost only a dollar per pound!
Up Next: Border Crossing