In July, the valley comes alive. The population booms, but you knew that already. More excitingly for me, the gardens and farms do, too.
South of Bigfork, the little village on the north shore of Flathead Lake, cherry orchards line the shore all the way to the bottom. In late spring, the blooms present promise of warmer days. In a flash they’re gone, and our patience is demanded until the last couple weeks in July, right now in fact, that the beauties in every hue of red ripen and we’re invited to pick or stop at any of the countless roadside stands and get a flat to go.
There are a few farms that allow picking–remember, these are commercial farms first and foremost– but my favorite is Getman’s Orchard in Woods Bay. Last year, for the first time, I nervously called him up to let him know when we’d be coming and get directions. He gushed over his crop for the year and went on to tell me all about each variety. The following day, we arrived bright and early, as per the farmers instructions to avoid the midday heat for both our and the cherries’ sake. We were given buckets for each variety, a quick tour and instructions for picking.
We walked the orchard wide-eyed for a long while, sampling a cherry from the most appealing branches before setting to work picking. At times the views distracted me from my job–the vast lake peeking through the cherry tree branches. But before long, we had more cherries than we knew what to do with (other than make my gf + v version of this clafoutis), so we made our way back to the weighing station.
Farmer Dan set us on our way with our yield, including two huge poppy pods for planting another year. We promised to return, the making of a new annual tradition.
Check out the farm’s website for picking, schedules, etc. They offer u-pick for all sorts of things, just ask.