Flathead Lake Cherries
Ways to Enjoy the Famous Fruits
Come summer, pink and red-stained fingertips are a sign of a snack well-snacked. Despite being world-famous, the pleasantly sweet and very juicy "Flathead" cherry is not actually its own species - farmers around Flathead Lake grow Lapins, Sweetheart, Rainier, Van, Stella, Lambert and Skeena cherries. Turns out, the specific variety doesn't matter terribly much, because it's actually the mild lake-influenced climate, pure waters, and fertile soil that make Flathead cherries the brightest and most flavorful on earth. The harvest season is from the second week of July through the second week in August and cherries are available at roadside stands along Flathead Lake or at local Farmers Markets. Or harvest your own at one of the many U-Pick orchards around the lake.
Glacier Distillery's Fireweed, a gold medal winner at 2017 Sip International, is a bourbon made by blending cherry brandy distilled from Flathead cherries. "The dark sweet flavors of Flathead cherries are perfect to tame the oaky bite of a classic bourbon cocktail. So perfect that we married them in a bottle," says Nic Lee, owner of Glacier Distillery, located near the entrance to Glacier National Park. "We crush, ferment, distill and barrel age cherries to blend with bourbon in our Fireweed Bourbon with Cherry Brandy Liqueur. This way we get to enjoy the delicious taste of summer year round."
DeSoto Grill, located in "The Forge," a historic former blacksmith shop in downtown Kalispell, serves up a smoked chicken with a cherry glaze. "The cherries have a certain richness," says owner Shawnna Steele. "They're not overpowering, like a lot of fruits. They have a richer flavor that matches really well with the savory that matches really well with our smoked flavors."
The aroma of fresh crusty bread and just-ground coffee hits you at the front door when you enter Ceres Bakery in downtown Kalispell. If you time your visit during late July or August, you may also catch the heady fragrance of an Almond and Flathead Cherry Crostata as it comes out of the oven - and this summer, talented baker/owners Hannah and Rick Grimm plan to add a Chocolate/Brandied Flathead Cherry twice-baked croissant to the repertoire. Savoring any of their Flathead Cherry pastries with a cuppa Ceres coffee is a lavish sensory experience that shouldn't be missed.
SUPPORT GOOD HEALTH
Tabletree, based in Bigfork, produces craft juice from Flathead Lake Cherries that is not only delicious in salad dressing, desserts, wine and cocktails, but is rich in antioxidants and high in anthocyanins and bioflavonoids, substances related to reducing joint and muscle discomfort. The juice also has anti-inflammatory qualities so splash a little Tabletree Cherry Juice on all your favorite edibles to benefit your palate and your well-being.