The Orondo Ruby cherry is one of nature's beautiful anomalies.Similar to its Rainier cherry cousin, it's shinier, more vibrantly red, and has crisper skin. It's also younger, having just popped up randomly in a cherry orchard in Orondo, Washington in 2001.
"We don't know how it happened," said Cory Wray, of G&C Farms. "One of our Rainier cherry trees just started behaving differently than the others. I guess Mother Nature decided to hand us something new. Clearly there was some kind of cross-pollination, but we don't know exactly what. We just knew the tree bloomed earlier, and then it produced these amazing cherries."
The cherries were so amazing, in fact, that the family-owned orchard patented them in 2008, after having Washington State University do extensive testing on them. They found the cherries had a 20% higher sugar content than Rainiers and lasted longer in the refrigerator than Bings.
"They were just better," Wray told me. "They were sweeter. I never get sick of them. I love eating them cold!"
The small Washington farm is now the only place in the world that grows the Orondo Ruby. They just hit shelves about a week ago, and they're in peak season right now. The harvest for the cherries is only about three weeks long.
"It's amazing how our business has expanded tremendously over the years," said Wray, who is in charge of marketing for G&C Farms. Her father, brother, and sister all also work there. Its run by two families, the Griggs and Clennons, united through marriage and more than 100 years of growing produce in Orondo.
"In 2014 we're going to produce about 50,000 boxes of cherries," Wray told me. "And in 2017 we're hoping to be at about 125,000. We want to expand, but still keep them premium and niche."
During the year, about five family members work full-time at the farm. When it's harvest time, the staff expand to more than 160 people.
"Our families get along really great," said Wray. "It's so wonderful that we get to work together, and keep this business in our family."
You can find Orondo Ruby cherries in Metropolitan Market, Central Market, QFC, and Fred Meyer stores right now in Seattle.
You can find recipes for the Orondo Cherry on the G&C Farms website. Here's their recipe for Orondo Ruby Cherry Bruschetta: Orondo Ruby Cherry Bruschetta
- 1/2 ea Baguette
- 4 oz Butter
- 4 oz Goat Cheese
- 1 Cup, Pitted Orondo Ruby Cherries
- 1 oz, Chiffonade Basil
- Juice from 1 Lime
- 1 tsp Lemon Zest
- 1 Clove, Minced Garlic
- 1 oz, Chopped Green Onion
- Slice Baguette 1/4" thick perpendicular to the Baguette. Melt butter and brush on the sliced Baguette. Bake at 350F for 5 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Cool.
- Add Orondo Ruby Cherries (pitted), Basil, Lime Juice, Lemon Zest, Garlic, and Green Onion. Mix.
- Spread Goat cheese on Toasted Baguette, spoon cherry mixture on top, and serve. (Hint) Drizzle Balsamic Reduction on the top of bruschetta.