Cherries only ripen on the tree and their sweetness starts declining after harvest, so it’s worth seeking out just-picked ones if you can.
When are cherries in season?
You’ll find ripe cherries starting in April and ending sometime in July. Softer varieties have a wonderful flavor, but are only suitable for local markets – so seek them out at a farmers market if you can!
Bing cherries are sturdier and ship well, which is what you’ll find in supermarkets. They only ripen on the tree, and lose flavor and sweetneess after harvest (the sugar turns into starch) and should be stored cold to reduce the sugar loss.
What is the difference between sweet and tart (sour) cherries?
Sweet cherries: Bings have a deep red color when ripe. Rainier cherries are yellowish with red blushes and are sometimes a bit more sweet than bing and less acidic. These are commonly found in stores and farmers markets and are eaten fresh.
Tart (aka sour) cherries: These are rarely found in grocery stores but you might luck out at the farmers markets. They have a shorter season (usually mid-june through July) and spoil easier. Tart cherries in the US are bright red (instead of dark red like bing cherries) and juicier. This is the popular cherry for pies, but requires more sugar to balance the tartness (so maybe sweet cherries should be a new trend in pies?). Most dried cherries, juices and jams are made from tart cherries.
To pick the best ones, look for plump, shiny skins with fresh green stems attached. Wrinkling indicates they are overripe or drying out.
Store cherries in a plastic bag in the fridge and they will last about a week.
Should I buy organic?
The levels of pesticides found in non-organic cherries, by the EPA, is low. They are near organic-levels.
Consumer reports published an interactive infographic based on EPA pesticide tests. They tested the edible portions for the toxicity of each pesticide present and the amount of each pesticide. This was then turned into a report that showed the amount of servings needed to eat in a day to exceed the EPA’s levels of “reasonable certainty of no harm” to your health. “Low” levels are close to organic levels.
How do you pit cherries without a cherry pitter?
I often cut around the pits and pull them out. But TheKitchn shares 3 ways to pit them (without a pitter) using a pastry tip, a paper clip, or a chopstick.
Now what should I make?
That’s a good question! I scour the internet to find recipes that use fresh, seasonal ingredients, often with a fun twist. Follow Ask The Food Geek on Pinterest or Facebook to get access to the recipes I find every day.
Seasonal cherry Recipes
Each recipe below only uses ingredients that are in season at the same time as cherries, or ingredients that have a year-round season. Since their season overlaps with the beginning or end of other fruits and vegetables, the recipes are grouped into early season, late season, or anytime they are available.
…For late spring
Cherry & orange chicken salad with candied walnuts – recipe from The Goldilocks Kitchen
While celery is easy to found year-round, it isn’t technically in season during the hotter summer months. If you want to stick to strict seasonality, make this in April or May (although I’m sure this is refreshing in mid-summer, so I won’t judge, promise!). Different orange varieties are available year-round.
… For summer
Pork tenderloin with cherry & peach salsa – recipe from Floating Kitchen
Peach season starts in June, so plan for this toward the end of cherry season (June / July).
… For anytime cherries are in season
Black forest overnight oats – recipe from A Virtual Vegan
A perfect breakfast to wake up to on the weekend (or maybe the right way to start a Monday?)
Cherry, rosemary and balsamic roasted chicken – recipe from Heather Christo
Perfect anytime cherries are in season (and you feel like turning on your oven!)
Kale salad with cherries, pistachios and grilled flank steak – recipe by So Let’s Hang Out
Cherry, brie, and bacon quesadillas – recipe by Use Your Noodles
Cherry almond galette with brown sugar – recipe by The Road to Honey
Use sweet or tart cherries depending on your style (and what’s available).
Chocolate cherry galette – recipe from Baking a Moment
Because you can’t get enough cherry galettes, here is a chocolate version that also looks incredible! You should try both… in the name of science!