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How to Prepare Cherries

In Season: Cherries

The arrival of cherry season has always signaled that transition from bright, warm Spring into the long, languid days of Summer. There's something about savoring a cherry and trying to scrape every last scrap of sweet fruit off the pit that mirrors those slow, balmy days and nights. But just as Summer months are fleeting, so is cherry season: it lasts only through July. So if you're craving a handful, run to the farmers market now! To learn more about the varieties and how to choose and cook with cherries, just read on.

Varieties

In the US, most commercially available cherries fall into two categories, sweet and sour cherries, that appear at farmers markets and grocery stores in the following varieties:

  • Bing: A sweet cherry known for its dark red skin and intensely sweet flesh, Bings are the most common variety in stores. Originally from Milwaukie, OR, this variety was named for horticulturalist Seth Lewelling's foreman, Ah Bing.
  • Rainier: Developed in 1952 at Washington State University, Rainier cherries are a cross between Bing and Van cultivars and are named for Washington's regal Mount Rainier. The skin is a mottled yellow-red, and the flesh is yellow and sweet.
  • Brooks: Brooks cherries, which ripen earlier than other varieties, grow well in hot climates such as California. They're characterized by their red or pink flesh and juicy but firm interiors.
  • Tulare: Tulares ripen just ahead of Bing cherries, but their flesh is not quite as firm or sweet.
  • Sour (or tart): Generally found in the form of Nanking or Evans varieties, sour cherries grow mainly in Michigan. Until recently, these pucker-inducing cherries were used mostly for baking and cooking, but the high concentration of antioxidants in tart cherries have turned them into a popular health item.

Selection and Storage

When picking cherries, select fruits that are firm, plump, and without blemishes. Cherries are among the fruits that don't ripen once they've been picked, so choose the darkest ones for the sweetest taste. Don't discount those bright red cherries, however: they make a wonderful tart addition to pies, jams, and drinks.

Cherries bruise easily, so store them in a wide bowl to help distribute the weight of the fruit. Avoid shaking the bowl, and don't place anything on top of it. Cover the bowl loosely with a towel (to promote air circulation), and keep them in the refrigerator. Make sure to enjoy them within two to four days!

Preparation

Of course, eating cherries straight up is the best way to enjoy this Summer fruit, but you can make them a regular part of your Summer kitchen in a multitude of ways:

What are your favorite tips for preparing cherries?

Source: Flickr User Benson Kua

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dclsweetspot dclsweetspot 4 years
We are fortunate we have a farm with pick your own cherries for $1.85 a mile from our house. They are amazing right off the tree. They also have 4 different varieties. We just finished strawberry picking season. A totally different fruit fresh picked and start blueberries tomorrow. Next are fresh peaches, tomatoes and corn. I love living near farms in New Jersey this time of year!!
Zulkey Zulkey 7 years
love cherries but sometimes they make my stomach act a little crazy. nothing is sadder than dropping some $$ on some cherries and they're sub-par.
ilanac13 ilanac13 7 years
cherry season is sooo short. they just came to our grocery store at a reasonable price last week and i feel like next week they will be back up in cost. oh well...at least i get to enjoy them for now.
mannylove mannylove 7 years
I love love love cherries! I have a big bag sitting next to me right now on my desk! They were on sale at Whole Foods...hooray
LesleyP825 LesleyP825 7 years
Yum!! I just bought some.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 7 years
Cherries are my favorites. In fact, I'm enjoying some cherries right now with some creamy brie. Divine.
Entertainment Entertainment 7 years
I have about two cups of cherries that I need to use now before I go out of town this weekend! I was thinking muffins, but that clafouti looks pretty great.
Peloria Peloria 7 years
I love love love cherries! Going out to buy some this evening, in fact!
kia kia 7 years
This is the second year in a row the Utah Wasatch front range had warm late winters and early springs. My sister's cherry trees bloomed twice before heavy snows hit the region. The timing is off and the fruit will be delayed and not very good this year. I am kind of bummed. I get my canning cherries from her trees.
fuzzles fuzzles 7 years
Bing me!!!
starangel82 starangel82 7 years
Watermelon and cherries are some of my favorite things about summer.
Soniabonya Soniabonya 7 years
LOVE cherries. I always try to stop by the cherry stands on my way down south just outside of Gilroy. :) Bing's are my favorite.
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