A new cherry variety, called Balaton® (named for a lake in its native Hungary), is making its commercial debut in America. This dark-skinned European morello-type cherry was first introduced into the United States in 1984 by Dr. Amy Iezzoni, Professor of Horticulture at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.
Through the efforts of Dr. Iezzoni and the Cherry Marketing Institute, extensive field tests have been conducted with commercial growers and fruit processors in Michigan, Utah, and Wisconsin. This year there are enough fruit-bearing trees for a commercial crop. Supplies of Balaton® cherries will increase over the next several years.
The Balaton® cherry has a dark burgundy color throughout with a robust sweet-tart taste. It is a large, plump, firm tart cherry that will be sold fresh from mid-July through early August at local farm markets in Michigan. Balaton® cherries will also be available throughout the year as processed and frozen products.
Currently, the major tart cherry variety in the United States is the Montmorency. It is known for its ruby-red skin, but has light-colored flesh and juice. The Montmorency is available year round in canned and frozen products.