More than 25 years ago, Pam Montgomery bought a 100 acre, 8,000-tree cherry orchard in Washington’s Yakima Valley (in the south-central part of the state). After the first harvest, Pam noticed that many cherries went unpicked which allowed the natural sugars to develop while the fruit dried on the branches.
On an impulse one day, Pam ate a few of the shriveled cherries and was surprised to find the cherries chewy, naturally sweet, and delicious. After fabricating a dryer from window screens, Pam opened a cherry drying facility and storefront in Prosser, Washington and called the company Chukar, named after a bird that lives in eastern Washington. By 1992, a second store was opened in Pike Place Market followed by a third store in Leavenworth, Washington in 2012.
Chukar sells five types of dried cherries and one medley all of which could be eaten right from the bag, on top of oatmeal, ice cream, and yogurt, or as an addition to baked goods or virtually any recipe that calls for dried fruit:
Northwest Bings: Plump, dried Bing cherries with no added sugar. Just Bing cherries.
Organic Rainiers: Certified organic Raniers with no sugar added. Tender, sweet, and delicious all by themselves.
Columbia River Tarts: Tart Montmorency cherries slightly sweetened with sugar and a touch of sunflower oil.
Totally Tarts: Tart Montmorency cherries with nothing added. An intense dried cherry that is great for cooking.
Cherry Medley: Three types of dried cherries: Tart Montmorency cherries that have been slightly sweetened with sugar and a touch of sunflower oil, dried Bing cherries and dried Rainier cherries.
Each 6 ounce resealable bag of dried cherries sells for about $9 while the organic variety sells for $11 at the company website: www.chukar.com.
In addition, the company makes six Energy Mixes – trail mixes that contain various combinations of dried cherries, berries, premium nuts, and bittersweet chocolate for a healthy and delicious snack.
Triple Cherry Nut: Contains dried Rainier cherries, dried Bing cherries, roasted almonds, roasted pistachios, and dried Montmorency cherries. There is no added sugar.
Berry & Pistachio: Contains dried cranberries (that have been preserved with sugar and sunflower oil), roasted pistachios, and dried Bing cherries.
Nuts over Bings: Contains roasted cashews, dried Bing cherries, roasted pistachios, roasted almonds, and salt. No added sugar.
Berry & Almond: Contains dried cranberries (that have been preserved with sugar and sunflower oil), roasted almonds, and dried Bing cherries.
Pistachio & Cherry: Contains dried Bing Cherries, dried Rainier cherries, roasted pistachios, dried Montmorency cherries. No added sugar.
Chunky Cherry Nut: Contains bittersweet chocolate, dried Rainier cherries, dried Bing cherries, roasted almonds, and roasted pistachios.
The Energy Mixes come in 6 ounce resealable bags and sell for about $9. The company also sells the Triple Cherry Nut and Nuts over Bings in easy, convenient 1.85 ounce bags (12 sealed packets in a classic cotton sack for about $40). These packets are excellent for hikes, to include in a lunch box, backpack, or to have in a side pocket of your purse for a quick and healthy snack.
To purchase Chukar dried cherries or the Energy Mixes, go to the company’s website: www.chukar.com. All orders are shipped within two days and standard shipping is $7.95, no matter the size of the order. The company also makes many other products with cherries, all of which are listed and described on the company website.