By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
When Mexico first began importing cherries from the northwestern U.S. states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Montana 15 years ago, the initial sales were relatively small, barely 6,000 cartons in 2004.
But as Mexico’s appreciation of the fleshy little cerises increased, so did the demand for the fruits.
In 2018, Mexico imported an unprecedented 200,000 crates of northwest cherries, and if Northwest Cherry Growers representative in Mexico Juan Carlos Moreira has his way, that number will be even higher during the three-month season that began in early June of this year.
“What makes our cherries unique and particularly sweet and flavorful is that they are grown in a climatically ideal setting, along the northern U.S. border, where the weather is warm in the daytime and cold at night,” Moreira told a group of journalists during a press conference at Mexico City’s University Club on Friday, July 5, to announce the summer cherry season.
The five-state region currently produces 25 million crates of sweet cherries every year, accounting for more than 80 percent of the entire U.S. production.
The biggest export markets for U.S. cherries have traditionally been Asian, but recent increased tariffs imposed by China as a result of a simmering trade war with the United States have forced the more than 2,000 northwest cherry farmers to explore new markets.
“Mexico is now our eighth-largest export market,” Moreira said, “and demand for the fruits is growing very rapidly here.”
Cherries, which are indigenous to Europe, Asia and Africa, have been consumed since prehistoric times and are considered among the modern superfoods.
They are rich in vitamin C and fiber, and have been accredited with having anti-inflammatory properties.
Cherries have also been linked to bone health and are believed to help jumpstart the body’s natural immune system.
By the same token, they are a natural source of melatonin, a hormone that helps in the body’s sleep cycle.
“There are plenty of health reasons to eat cherries,” Moreira said, “but their luscious, nectarous flavor is reason enough for most people to love them.”
Cherries are sweet and juicy and constitute the very essence of summer and indulgence, he said.
“And they make a great gift when you are invited to family or social gathering,” Moreira said.
“A day or two after the event, no one really remembers who brought the wine, but they will always remember who brought the cherries.”