Europe / Food / Greece / Travel

The cherry on top: Exploring cherry production in Greece

Fresh cherries in the rain at the Agricultural Cooperative of Rachi Pieria.

I broke my travel hiatus in the best way possible- with a trip to Greece! During the pandemic, I’ve been keeping a low profile taking care of Finn and trying to dodge covid. I hadn’t realized how much I missed traveling!

The cherry on top of my trip to Greece was learning all about (and eating!) tasty Greek cherries. I was invited by Charming Taste of Europe to explore how delicious Greece cherries are grown, produced and shipped all around the world to be enjoyed.

The Charming Taste of Europe has the fantastic job of introducing Canadians to exquisite European products. Think Italian wines, Greek feta cheese and of course, fruits. I admit that I hadn’t thought too much about how fresh fruit makes it’s way to Canada from warmer shores like Greece. This trip was the perfect way to learn all about that- and to appreciate all the fresh fruit on display on my next trip to the grocery store.

Boxes for cherries at the Agricultural Cooperative of Rachi Pieria.

We started our cherry journey with a trip to Rachi Pieria in Northern Greece. Tucked away near Mount Olympus, is the Agricultural Cooperative of Rachi Pieria, founded in 1978. Their hardworking 250 farmers cultivate apricots, melons, apples and of course, cherries.

Rachi is 250 meters above sea level, in the center of the Prefecture of Pieria. Rachi means saddle in Greek, and it gets it’s name from the ground formation that it’s built on. It looks like a a saddle between Mount Olympus south and the Pieria Range west. It’s a small town, with a population of only is 450 people.

There are 200 hectares of cherry groves, and they grow a whopping 16 varieties of cherries. The most common ones are: Burlat, Sweet Aryanna, Grace Star, Lapins and Ferrovia. In Greece, the production of cherries is 10th in the world.

Cherries in the rain.

Cherries are harvested starting in May and goes until the end of July. When we visited in June, most of the cherries had already been harvested, but there were still some cherries waiting to be picked. We took a drive to check out the cherry fields. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate, but we were able to take a peek at the trees laden with the bright red fruit.

Cherries are washed and sorted at the Agricultural Cooperative of Rachi Pieria.

We headed inside to the building where freshly picked cherries are stored and processed after the harvest. Cherries are placed in a hydro cooler and are frozen at 5 degrees. Once cooled, cherries are stored in a refrigeration chamber for at least one night.

Cherry production in progress at the Agricultural Cooperative of Rachi Pieria.

The cherries are fed up into a machine to be cleaned and sorted by the workers waiting below. It was really cool to watch the cherries go through the machine and come out on the conveyor belt. The entire process is done under cold water to keep the cherries as fresh as possible. Tiny micro cameras separate the cherries for size, weight and colour. Busy workers sort and package the cherries according to brand specifications.

Finally, the cherries are boxed and ready to head off on their journey around the world. Sadly, these cherries aren’t available in Canada quite yet, but they are working on it! Right now, they’re distributed to Romania, the Netherlands, Italy, the Baltics, Holland and other places in Europe. They even go to India, Dubai, Singapore and Malaysia!

Of course, we didn’t leave without trying some cherries. I got a whole crate to devour myself. These cherries were the best that I’ve ever tasted. They were sweet, plump and crisp. I wish that I could have brought some home with me! If you ever come across “Cherries from Rachi Olympus“, don’t miss your chance to indulge in the best cherries that you’ll ever eat!

Thanks to the Charming Taste of Europe for a fantastic experience!

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