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Cherry Picking Tips and Facts

Cherry Picking Tips and Facts

Cherry picking tipsIf you are about to pick cherries either directly from a tree, or from a local orchard or market, here's what you need to know to pick the best cherries.

Cherries are a fairly early crop, flowering soon after the last frosts in April and May, setting fruit sin June in most areas (but check your area's harvest calendar and call the farm or orchard you are planning to go to a few weeks ahead).

Types of Cherries

There are two types of cherries: sweet cherries and sour (or pie) cherries.  The difference is simple: sweet cherries taste sweeter and are eaten fresh. Pie cherries are very tart and most people prefer to use them in pies, jams, preserves, jellies and butters, adding sugar to sweeten them. See further down this page for a list of common cherry varieties and their uses.

Cherry tree in an orchardCherry picking tips

  • Cherries, like peaches, continue to increase in size until they are ripe. They should be picked when they are of maximum size and full-flavored.
  • Cherries picked before they are fully mature will not ripen off the tree.
  • Sweet cherries become firm when ripe (the stems usually stay attached when you pick a sweet cherry), and sour cherries part easily from the stem.
  • Look for heavy, firm cherries with a shiny skin and fresh stem.
  • Cherries that are to be shipped will keep longer if the stems are left attached. They will store in the refrigerator for two to three days.
  • For immediate use, they can be picked with or without the stems.

How to pick the cherries from the tree

  1. Gently grasp the berry with your fingers and thumb, and
  2. tug gently. 
  3. If it is ripe, it will easily come off in your hand, with the stem attached.
  4. Repeat these operations using both hands until each holds 3 or 4 cherries.
  5. Carefully place - don't throw - the fruit into your containers. Repeat the picking process with both hands.
  6. Don't overfill your containers or try to pack the cherries down.

General Picking Tips

Whether you pick Cherries from yourown trees, a market or at a Pick-Your-Own farm, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Pick only the cherries  that are fully red (or whatever color they are supposed to be when ripe!). Part the leaves with your hands to look for hidden cherries ready for harvest.
  2. Avoid placing the picked cherries in the sunshine any longer than necessary. It is better to put them in the shade of a tree or shed than in the car trunk or on the car seat.
  3. Cool them as soon as possible after picking. Cherries may be kept fresh in the refrigerator for two or three days, depending upon the initial quality of the berry.

Before you leave to go to the farm:

  1. Always call before you go to the farm - Cherries are affected by weather (especially rain and cooler temperatures) more than most crops. And when they are in season, a large turnout can pick a field clean before noon, so CALL first!Always call before you go to the farm - Cherries are affected by weather (especially rain and cooler temperatures) more than most crops. And when they are in season, a large turnout can pick a field clean before noon, so CALL first!
  2. Leave early.  On weekends, then fields may be picked clean by NOON!
  3. Most growers furnish picking containers designed for Cherries, but they may charge you for them; be sure to call before you go to see if you need to bring containers.
    If you use your own containers, remember that heaping Cherries more than 3 inches deep will smush the lower cherries. Plastic dishpans, metal oven pans with 3 inch tall sides and large pots make good containers. I like the Glad storage containers like the one at right.
  4. Bring something to drink and a few snacks; you'd be surprised how you can work up a thirst and appetite! And don't forget hats and sunscreen for the sun. Bugs usually aren't a problem, but some deet might be good to bring along if it has been rainy.

When you get home

  1. DON'T wash the cherries until you are ready to use them.  Washing makes them more prone to spoiling.
  2. Cherries are more perishable than blueberries or strawberries, so make a point of refrigerating them as immediately as possible after purchase. Temperatures between 34 F and 38 F are best, but, be careful not to freeze cherries! (Fresh cherries are highly prone to freeze damage).
  3. Pour them out into shallow pans and remove any mushed, soft or rotting cherries
  4. Even under ideal conditions cherries will only keep for a few days in a refrigerator, so for best flavor and texture, consume or freeze them as soon as possible after purchase.
  5. See my How to freeze berries page. (Unless you're going to make jam right away)
  6. Now, get ready to make Cherry jam - It is VERY easy - especially with our free Cherry preserves instructions - illustrated and easy or cherry pie filling

Cherry Recipes, Canning, Jam, Jelly,  and related resources

Cherry varieties

Sweet cherries:

  • Bing cherries are deep red in color and sweet.
  • Emperor Francis are White or Blush Sweet Cherries,  Early season, perfect for canning, making jellies and jams, or making homemade maraschinos.
  • Hartland, an early season dark cherry. A Windsor cross, it was developed in New York
  • Hedelfingen is a later season sweet cherry. It has large, black fruit.
  • Kristin cherries are a a mid-season cherry developed in New York.
  • Lambert Cherry is a large, black, late harves cherry of very good quality, compared to Bing.
  • Lapins Cherry is a self-fruitful, karge, dark red sweet cherry from Canada with firm, good flavor. Ripens a few days after Bing and needs only 400 chilling hours or less to produce fruit.
  • Rainier cherries are golden yellow with a pink or red blush. Ranier cherries are large and sweet.
  • Royalton cherries are large, dark cherry mid-season cherries
  • Skeena cherries are a late ripening variety. Thesy are dark red,firm and juicy.
  • Somerset cherries are medium sized, later season cherries that are dark and firm.
  • Staccato cherries are a deep purple-red and also a late season variety. Staccato cherries are large and one of the sweetest varieties.
  • Stella are a large, sweet, dark-red fruit that ripens in mid-season
  • Sweetheart cherries are a large, bright red late-season variety, medium sweetness
  • White Gold are a blush cherry of moderate to large size.

Pie, Sour or Tart Cherries (all different names for the same thing!)

  • Montmorency, the most co,mmonly grown, traditional cherry for pies, baking and canning.
  • Morello Sour Cherry is a late-ripening tart dark red to nearly black cherry used for cooking, and sometimes eaten fresh when fully ripe. Fruits in warm climates ( 500 hours or fewer chilling hours below 45 F)Self-fruitful. USDA
  • Dark-juice-tarts has juice that is red rather than clear in color.
  • Balaton Ujfeherto Furtos is a Hungarian sour cherry with firm fruit that is suited to picking by hand and eating fresh. Red skin and flesh.
  • Danube Erdi Botermo has dark red fruit with a unique sweet-tart flavor. Delicious eaten fresh or in baked goods.

Cherry Facts and Tips

  • Cherries come in many colors besides red: there are also dark red (almost black), yellow, blush (mixed) and gold cherries.
  • Cherries are a very healthy food; they are high Vitamin C and naturally have no fat, cholesterol or sodium. They are also a good source of ivitamin A, calcium, protein, and iron.
  • Cherries are an antioxidant-rich foods.
  •  One cup of cherries is less than 90 calories and 3 grams of fiber.
  • One cup of cherries has 260 mg of potassium which plays a key role in muscle, heart, kidney, and nerve cell functions.
  • Cherries are high in fiber. Half to one pound of cherry fruit per day can provide twenty to thirty grams of fiber which is adequate for an adult daily nutrition requirement.
  • Do the math and be careful not to over-purchase as Cherries quickly mold when left at room temperature, and only last a couple of days in the refrigerator.
  • You can easily freeze cherries that you cannot use right away - just wash, cut the hulls off and pop them into a ziplock bag, removing as much air as possible.  Those vacuum food sealers REALLY do a good job of this! The cherries will keep for many months frozen without air. See my How to freeze berries page
  • Anthocyanins in cherries are what give the fruit its red color and help protect the heart and surrounding tissues
  • Some research has found eating cherries to reduce pain and inflammation associated with arthritis and gout

Growing your own cherries

Sweet cherry trees are usually not self-pollinating, so you will at least two or three trees so that they can pollinate each other. There are a few relatively new self-pollinating varieties, like the dwarf Stella tree. Other self-fertile cherry varieties are Lapins, Starkrimson,  and Sunburst. Sweet cherries usually require a high number of cold chilling hours, meaning they require a long cold winter.  Generally, sweet cherry trees will not reliably produce a crop in the Deep South and other climates withmild winters.

Sour cherries, typically will produce a crop in warmer climates. But even sour cherries won't produce in Florida and similar climates. .

Sour cherries are usually too tart to be eaten fresh, but are used for pies, preserves and other cooking uses. Sour cherries are typically much smaller than sweet cherries.  All varieties of sour cherries are self-fertile, so you can plant only one tree, if you wish.

Both types of cherries will produce a beautiful show of flowers in the Spring, for which cherry trees are famous.  And even if it is too warm for them to produce a crop of fruit, they will still produce the flowers.

Cherry trees are sold in both dwarf and standard sizes (based on the rootstock to which they are grafted.  Standard-size trees will start bearing fruit i4 years after planting and can produce 30 to 50 quarts of cherries per year.

It is generally best to plant cherries in late fall or early winter to give them time to get established.

You will need netting over the trees as the cherries ripes; birds will attack them and eat them voraciously otherwise!

Just like with apples, you can prune the trees to almost any shape, typically a fan or espanier, sdo they can fit in any space. They do like full sun.

Penn State University has these useful guides:

 

Cherry Nutritional Information

Wikipedia and the USDA provide the following nutrtional analysis of cherries

Cherries, sweet, red, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 263 kJ (63 kcal)
16 g
Sugars 12.8 g
Dietary fiber 2.1 g
0.2 g
1.1 g
Vitamins
Vitamin A equiv.
(0%)
3 �g
(0%)
38 �g
85 �g
Thiamine (B1)
(2%)
0.027 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
(3%)
0.033 mg
Niacin (B3)
(1%)
0.154 mg
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(4%)
0.199 mg
Vitamin B6
(4%)
0.049 mg
Folate (B9)
(1%)
4 �g
Choline
(1%)
6.1 mg
Vitamin C
(8%)
7 mg
Vitamin K
(2%)
2.1 �g
Minerals
Calcium
(1%)
13 mg
Iron
(3%)
0.36 mg
Magnesium
(3%)
11 mg
Manganese
(3%)
0.07 mg
Phosphorus
(3%)
21 mg
Potassium
(5%)
222 mg
Sodium
(0%)
0 mg
Zinc
(1%)
0.07 mg

Percentages are roughly approximated usingUS recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

As raw fruit, sweet cherries provide little nutrient content per 100 g serving (nutrient table). Dietary fiber and vitamin C are present in moderate content while other vitamins and dietary minerals each supply less than 10% of the Daily Value (DV) per serving, respectively (table).

Compared to sweet cherries, raw sour cherries contain slightly higher content per 100 g of vitamin C (12% DV) and vitamin A (8% DV) (table).

Questions and Answers and other tips!s!

I want to make cherry juice and cherry jam. Do you know how I could extract the juice, getting rid of the pits?

There are various tpyes of cherry pitters that are easy and effective. Juicers tend to jam on the pits (if you know of a brand of juicer that is reliable and effective with cherries, write me!

See this page about cherry pitters. Once pitted, juicers work great: