This year’s crop of Northwest sweet cherries has arrived on grocery store shelves and they have been one of the best cherry seasons I have seen in recent memory. The cherries are large, plump, and sweet – as cherries should be.
In 1847, a man named Henderson Lewelling traveled from Iowa to western Oregon by ox cart and brought with him nursery stock which became the first cherry trees planted in the Northwest. The Bing cherry is named after Seth Lewelling’s (Henderson’s younger brother) Manchurian orchard foreman and friend, Ah Bing.
Growers in the Northwest anticipate a record crop size lasting through August, so consumers can plan to enjoy their fresh and delicious sweet cherries through the thick of summer.
The Northwest is known for seven varieties including Bing cherries, the most popular cherry in North America, and the unique golden-blushed Rainiers, born at Washington State University in 1952 and celebrated each year on July 11 as National Rainier Cherry Day.
Other popular varieties include the deep juicy sweet Tietons and heart-shaped Chelans on the shelves now, and late-season Lapins, dark Skeenas and bright red Sweethearts coming over the next few weeks.
The Darker the Berry…
Aside from the light-hued Rainier (and its many sub-varieties), consumers can typically spot sweet cherries by their darker red skins – in general, the darker, the sweeter.
Keeping Cherries Fresh
Fresh cherries should be kept in a tightly sealed bag or container and will keep for approximately two weeks when refrigerated. Rinse just before eating for best longevity.
Tips to Enjoy Cherries Year Round
Sweet cherries can also be enjoyed year-round by simply rinsing, packing and freezing them. To freeze cherries, select four to five pounds of firm, ripe cherries. After rinsing and draining, spread whole cherries with stems in a layer on a baking sheet, freezing until firm and then packing into freezer-proof containers or plastic freezer bags being sure to remove excess air and cover tightly. Add frozen, pitted cherries to smoothies or juices, defrost and put in hot cereals, pies, turnovers, cobblers, or enjoy frozen as sweet late-night treat.
Add some cherries to your yogurt parfait…
Or enjoy in a cherry beverage like this non-alcoholic Shirley Temple
For more information on sweet Northwest Cherries, seasonal and preservation recipes, health information and more, visit www.nwcherries.com.
Photos by So May Ly Photography. Cherries courtesy of Northwest Cherries.