Cherry Information

Cherries vary: the different types ?
Cherries come in two categories: sweet and tart. Sweet cherries are the most popular.
Bing ? the Bing is king when it comes to the demand for sweet cherries. It is a large, plump variety with dark, purple-red flesh and dark ruby skin that turns nearly black when fully ripe.
Lambert ? the second most popular variety. It?s a red, heart-shaped fruit, very similar in taste to the Bing.
Rainier ? the third most popular, developed at the Washington State University Research Station by Dr. Harold Fogle. It is sweeter and milder than the Bing, and has creamy yellow and pink flesh and skin.
Royal Ann ? this variety is most often made into maraschino cherries. It was in 1896 that cherry processors in the United States began experimenting with making Royal Ann cherries into maraschinos, following the lead of the original maraschino cherries ? a variety called Marasca that Italian merchants soaked in liqueur. The processors substituted almond oil for some of the liqueur in the cherries, eventually omitted the liqueur altogether, and by 1920 the Royal Ann version of the maraschino had replaced the Italian delicacy in the United States.
Sour cherries ? the tart varieties, Montmorency and Morello being the most common types, are a very bright red in color and much smaller than the sweets. They?re most often canned or frozen and used for pie fillings and sauces. Michigan grows over 75% of the tart cherry crop in a five-county area around Lake Traverse.
All varieties of cherry have remarkably short growing seasons. Bings are generally available from the end of May to early August, reaching their peak season in June and July. Its sweet counterparts such as Van, Lambert, and Rainier are available a tad bit longer, until about mid-August or so. The cherry varieties that appear earlier and later in the season than Bings are softer and less sweet. Any fresh cherries you see in the store after August are most likely from cold storage, although some stores import small quantities of sweet cherries from New Zealand during the winter months. The growing season of sour cherries such as Morello and Montmorency is blink-and-you?ll-miss-it short ? it both begins and ends in July!

How to pick cherries ? from the supermarket.
The flavor and texture of cherries are compromised in warm temperatures, so make sure they?ve been kept in a cool, moist area. Since grocery stores most often display cherries piled up in bins or boxes, the fruit tends to get roughly handled ? so when choosing your cherries, take just a few into your hand at a time and inspect them closely. A good cherry should be large (roughly an inch or more in diameter), hard, glossy, plump, and dark. The color of a good Bing, for example, will be so dark purple that it almost looks black. Toss back the fruits that are small in comparison to the rest, that don?t feel as firm, or that have cuts or bruises on the surface or are sticky from the leakage of juice. When a bunch of cherries in the bin are spoiled, they?ll trigger the surrounding fruit?s spoilage process, so consider buying your cherries somewhere else if a good portion of the fruit is unsavory. Check the stems; they should be green and look fresh. A dark stem is the sign of poor storage conditions or old age. Don?t buy cherries without stems, because the break where the stem once was can invite decay to begin, and the cherry may not be as fresh.

Care and storage.
Cherries bruise easily, especially the lighter-colored, more delicate Rainier variety, so make sure you package them loosely in plastic bags. Either that, or you can store them in a shallow pan (make a single layer) and cover them with plastic wrap. If they were fresh and in good condition at the time of purchase, they should keep for about a week in your refrigerator when properly stored. Check them periodically, because as mentioned earlier, one spoiled fruit can ?encourage? the others to spoil as well.
If you want to extend your eating pleasure through the winter months, you can stock up and freeze the cherries. Rinse and drain them well, and then spread them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet or pizza pan and pop them in the freezer. Once they?re frozen, transfer them to a heavy, freezer-safe plastic bag, where you can safely keep them for up to a year. Be sure to mark the date on the bag so that you?ll know when they?re past their prime.