Fresh cherries, aren’t they the best! That firm bite. The sweet juices that flow into your mouth and excite your tongue. Yeah cherries are where it is at. I haven’t always been a cherry fan. Never do I remember eating them fresh as a child or teen. I can’t remember if they just weren’t as available where I lived or we just didn’t buy them. But now I am grateful for them and can’t wait to enjoy them every May through August (click here to learn more about cherry season). Not all the cherries you find in the grocery store are going to be good. I have learned a lot about finding good cherries over the last several years. Time to share that information with you, my beloved readers. Below you fill find my top 4 cherry buying tips in no particular order.
Here are my Top 4 Cherry Buying Tips
Tip No. 1 – Taste Before You Buy
I always recommend giving your bag of cherries a test drive before you buy. This way you can prevent disappoint in how bad they are or that you didn’t buy more because their delicious. Any grocery store should have no problem with you trying the cherries. Trying means trying one. Don’t be snacking on the bag while you shop as most of the time they are sold by weight. Also be sure to dispose of your cherry pit in the trash can. I know that sounds pretty self explanatory but I have seen cherries pits scattered all over the produce department – I have seen them in piles of corn before, yeah that’s gross!
Tip No. 2 – Look at the Color
Dark cherries tend to be more flavorful and sweet. But color also could indicate age. Make sure to look at the skin on the cherry. Does it look smooth or wrinkled? If you are picking Rainier cherries, the more red the better normally. The best Rainiers I ever had were just about completely red. Again taste before you buy.
Tip No. 3 – Watch the Seasons
Getting good cherries is all about timing. Too early and you will be disappointed. The first cherries of the season come out of California. They usually are expensive and not very good. Depending on the crop each year, as the price heads down the taste usually goes up. After Memorial Day you normally find the Bing cherries in season. These are the most commonly ground variety and they are pretty good as well. Sometime in June, we transition into Washington season. The early cherry varieties may not be as good but the prices won’t be as high as at the start of the California season was.
I typically find that the best cherries of the season in terms of flavor and price are around Fourth of July. That is particular true of the Rainier cherries. July is especially good for me as that is when my local cherries from here in Michigan are in season.
Cherry season will wrap up in August. This is when you need to be careful in selecting your cherries. You will find older cherries that are not firm. The best cherries I have found in August are grown by Stemilt under their Half Mile Closer Label. These cherries are grown at higher elevations, so they ripe later in the year. I find these cherries to be very firm and a great way to end the season. Look out for them near mid to late August in your favorite grocery store.
Tip No. 4 – Look for Special Varieties
We are beginning to see more special varieties of cherries hitting the market place. I am excited to see what comes out in future years. These cherries are wroth your money to buy. It’s nice to mix things up and experience different flavor in cherries. Right now a couple varieties to look for are Orondo Ruby, Skylar Rae, and Strawberry Cherries. These cherries all have more in common with the Rainier in terms of flavor and appearance. As mentioned early, the Bing variety is the most commonly grown and some stores will advertise their dark cherries as being Bings.
Since I live in a top cherry growing state I have more options. Yellow cherry varieties can be found a many farmer’s market and orchard. These cherries are bright yellow in color and are very sweet, but they have a thinner skin that makes them difficult to ship. There is also the Queen Anne cherry. It looks similar to a Rainier but they are more tart, good for pies. Speaking of baked goods, we can get fresh tart cherries here. The Balaton variety is especially good. Tart cherries don’t hold up as well as their sweet cousins, so it’s nearly impossible to find them in stores outside of anywhere that grows cherries.
Well those are my top 4 cherry buying tips. I hope you can apply them and enjoy the best cherries with your family and friends!