What's In Season: Sweet Cherries

The smallest stone fruit. A luxurious and sweet summer treat.

Sources: Field Guide to Produce by Aliza Green; On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee; California Cherry Advisory Board; Washington State Fruit Commission

What's In Season: Sweet Cherries

The smallest stone fruit. A luxurious and sweet summer treat.

Sources: Field Guide to Produce by Aliza Green; On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee; California Cherry Advisory Board; Washington State Fruit Commission

The first cherries that arrive in our produce markets are sweet, red Bing cherries, soon followed by the sweet white cherries called Raniers. Sour cherries, which are scarce to find in our markets but do make an appearance for about a month in our Greenmarkets, arrive later in the summer, often not until July. Sour cherries are perfect for making pies and other cherry cooked desserts while sweet cherries are best for eating raw. The cherries we buy in New York come mostly from the Pacific Northwest and California. They're harvested when they're ripe meaning unlike many other types of fruit, they don't get any better from that point on. Being picked ripe also means they're fragile, which contributes to their cost.

White cherries nearly always cost more than red ones but it doesn't mean they taste better. They usually have a more subtle flavor and can be more sweet, but not necessarily so. As I say below, taste first, then buy.

Like most fruit that have a rich, deep color, cherries are full of nutrients, including anti-oxidants, potassium, vitamins C and B complex, and other good things that are said to fight both heart disease and cancer and help with bone health. There are about 90 calories in a cup of fresh cherries (about 21 pieces).

How to Buy Cherries


How to Cook with Cherries

While cherries may be best enjoyed just fresh and raw, the taste of cooked cherries (that haven't come out of a can with an artificially red color) can be one of summer's greatest treats.

The challenge, of course, is removing the pits. While gadgets and devices are sold to separate pits from their cherries, sometimes the easiest method is to use a plastic drinking straw. Just gently push the end of the straw into and through the cherry and the pit will pop right out. One plastic straw will last about as long as it takes to pit a quart of cherries. Pitting cherries is a labor-intensive process, regardless which tool you use, but the payoff at the end is usually worth it.

Here are some ideas for cooking with fresh summer sweet cherries:


Cherry Trivia

Maraschino cherries originated in northern Italy and were popular as locally grown marasca cherries preserved in almond flavored liqueur. Today there's little evidence of what had once been a regional delicacy. Instead they are industrialized cherries that get bleached with sulfur dioxide, stored in brine, flavored with almond extract, and then sweetened and dyed a bright red color. Aside from a decoration for a "Shirley Temple," they have no reason to still exist.

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FruitJuneJulyGreenmarketsCherries

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