Cherries —Six Short Weeks of Sweet Cherry Bliss

Sweet California cherries

Sweet California cherries

Cherries are one of the most anticipated summer fruits. The short California cherry season generally begins in mid May, hits its peak by the end of May, and tapers off considerably by mid June. However, the 2015 season arrived three weeks earlier than usual due to the strange weather pattern we’ve been experiencing. Little rain and mild winters have resulted in fruit being ripe and ready to harvest much earlier.

In an article by Mike Hornick,  The Packer explained the 2014 cherry crop disaster. “Last year was a near crop failure,” Rich Sambado, sales manager for Stockton-based Primavera Marketing Inc. “This year looks a lot better but is not a huge crop.”

“Last year’s bloom was bizarre, especially in Stockton,” Sambado said.

“The pollination timing was off, the top of the tree bloomed after the bottom. It was completely out of whack, but this year’s bloom is much more compact and uniform. We’re fairly optimistic there will be a nice crop of Bing cherries.”

The San Joaquin and Santa Clara Valleys are ideal for growing cherries with the perfect combination of nutrient-rich soil and sunny yet mild temperatures needed to produce superior quality fruit. There are approximately 600 cherry growers farming over 26,000 acres, with most being small family farms ranging 10-30 acres in size. Consumer demand has steadily increased, both domestically and as a key market export to Japan.

Bing and Rainier are the most popular cherries produced in California, with their large size, sweet flavor, and crisp, juicy texture — perfect for healthy snacking right out of hand. Bing cherries have a deep, rich red skin color and flesh with a sweet, rich flavor. Rainier cherries have a mottled gold and pink skin color, with a fine textured flesh and colorless juice. Rainiers have a very sweet, yet delicate flavor.

During the short cherry season, you will find up to 15 different varieties at the Aptos Farmers Market including old favorites like Chelan, Ferrovia, Utah Giants, Brook, Royal Rainier, Royal Lynn, and Burlats, just to name a few.

Here are some fun facts from the California Cherry Board:

  • Cultivation of sweet cherries likely began with Greeks, and later Romans, who valued the tree’s timber as well as its fruit.
  • Sweet cherries came to America in 1629 with English colonists, and later to California with Spanish missionaries.
  • Today’s Bing Cherries come from stock that dates back to the 1800s, when California became an established cherry production region.
  • Sweet cherries (like California Bings) are members of the species Prunus avium.
  • The sweet cherry originated in Asia Minor, in the fertile area between the Black and Caspian Seas, and was probably carried to Europe by birds.
  • Cherries are members of the Rosaceae family, subfamily Prunoideae — a distant cousin to peaches, plums, apricots and almonds.

Eating 10 raw cherries a day will provide about 10% of daily fiber. Cherries have healing properties such as melatonin to aid in sleeping and are loaded with potassium and vitamin C. Bing cherries contain anthocyanins (antioxidants) which may help fight inflammation, arthritis, heart disease and cancer.

RECIPES: Mache Salad with Cherries and Pancetta, Romaine Salad with Smoked Turkey and Cherries, Grilled Chicken with CherriesFresh Cherry Salad with Melon and Mint, Grilled Pork Chops with Cherry Chutney, Arugula Cherry Salad with Cherry Vinaigrette, Bing Cherry Ice Cream, Smokey Cherry Chipotle Barbecue Sauce, How to Make Cherry Vinegar, Curried Chicken Cherry SaladFresh Cherry Pie, How to Make Cherry Brandy, Lazy Man’s Cobbler,