Cherries are one of the most popular fruits out there, thanks to their sweet taste and health benefits. Each bite packs nutrients ranging from magnesium, choline, and calcium to vitamins C, A, and K, and potassium. However, cherries have a short season and aren’t available all year round, unlike many other popular fruits. So, when’s best to enjoy this wonderful fruit?
Cherries are in season at various times in the primary growing areas from mid-April through to early August. Learning when cherries are in season will help you know when to stock up, since they’re very perishable. Pitted and frozen, cherries can last up to 6mo.
Don’t let the cherry season pass you by! Let’s take a closer look at when cherries are at their peak, how to pick and store them, and which varieties to keep an eye out for.
When Are Cherries in Season?
Cherries are in season from mid-April to late July or early August, depending on the growing region. The season peaks in early summer, though harvesting can continue for four months afterward. Most of the fruits come from the West Coast, but the beginning of the season varies even within that region.
By learning when cherries are in season, you can make sure to get the freshest, juiciest, and tastiest fruits for your recipes.
California has the earliest cherry season, starting from the middle of April and running through early June. Other areas where cherries are in season early include:
- Virginia: Late May to mid-July
- Utah: June
- Washington: Early June- late August
- New York: Mid-June – late July
- Indiana: Mid-June – late July
- Illinois: Mid-June – late July
- New Jersey: Mid-June – mid July
- Pennsylvania: Mid-June – late July
- Maryland: Mid-June – late July
The season starts in late June and mid-July in Wisconsin, Iowa, Maine, and Northern Michigan.
Cherries are highly perishable and after harvesting, they don’t stay in the market long. By September, you’ll hardly find fresh cherries at the market, but you can still enjoy the fruit in various cherry-based products.
If you want to enjoy the best of fresh cherries, you’ll have to watch out for cherry season. And if you find yourself in the off season, you can consider options like frozen cherries at your local supermarket, or cherries in jars like these Maraschino Cherries (on Amazon). Dried options like these Dried Dark Sweet Cherries (also on Amazon) are also a great option.
How to Pit and Store Cherries
Cherries are a culinary delight with applications in baking, creams, salads, cooking and drinks. There’s so much you can do with cherries, but it all starts with preparing and storing the fruit properly.
The easiest way to enjoy a cherry is, of course, by eating it right off the stem. However, you’ll have to pit the cherry for summer salads, pies/cakes, and cooking. You can buy frozen pitted cherries at the store, but you might not get that fresh, sweet taste you desire.
Here are some simple steps to pit your cherries:
- Use a chopstick: Remove the stem and hold the cherry between two fingers. Slowly push a chopstick through the stem hole to push the pit out of the cherry.
- Use a paperclip: Unfold a paper clip and bend it into an “S” shape. Pluck off the cherry stem and insert the clip to reach the pick. Hook the clip and scoop the pit out. The method is perfect for sour and sweet cherries.
- Tear the fruit: If you plan to eat or blend the ripe cherries, remove the stem and tear the fruit into two. Remove the pit and use the pitted cherry as you desire.
- Use the peach pit method: If you need cherry halves, remove the stem and use a sharp paring knife to cut the fruit all the way round. Open the cherry and pick the pit out with your fingers.
- Use the surgical technique: If you need perfectly looking whole pitted cherries, remove the stem and place the fruit on a flat surface. Press down the fruit using a paring knife but be careful not to crush it. The pressure loosens the pit and you can remove it easily by cutting along one side of the fruit.
Cherries are perishable, so if you want to enjoy them for as long as possible, here’s how to store them:
- Store unwashed cherries with the stem attached. The best storage environment should be dry.
- Use a loosely-covered container to store your cherries in the refrigerator. If you have room, place the cherries in layers with paper towels between them. The refrigerated cherries can last for a week.
- For longer storage, pit your cherries and use a resealable bag to freeze the fruits. Store the pitted cherries in a single layer. The frozen fruits can last up to 6 months.
Rinse cherries in cool water before eating or using them in your recipe.
Sweet Cherries vs. Tart Cherries
Sweet cherries and tart cherries are both quite popular but they have different qualities that qualify them for specific uses.
Sweet cherries mostly grow in the Pacific Northwest while Michigan is the main growing region for tart cherries. Here are some differences you should consider before choosing sweet or tart cherries for your recipes:
- As the name suggests, sweet cherries have a sweet taste that makes them perfect as a quick snack or for fresh salads. Tart cherries have (you guessed it) a more bitter taste that makes them more appropriate for juices, jams, baking, and cooking.
- Tart cherries have a shorter season, running from mid-June through July. These cherries spoil easier, making them ideal for drying and freezing.
- Sweet cherries are more common in farmers’ markets.
- Tart cherries are commonly harvested, dried, and pressed into concentrate or cherry juice.
- Sweet cherries are not commonly available all year round, whereas tart cherries are easy to freeze for long-term storage.