How to ripen cherries?

Do ground cherries ripen after picking?

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Organic Cherries: Growing, Picking, Ripening, and Storage

It’s Cherry Season at FruitShare…

and we can’t wait. During this short window, FruitShare staffers eat cherries by the handful! Our season begins late June and continues well into July. Cherries ripen on the tree (and yes cherries grow on trees in case you were wondering). Our cherries are grown at a small farm in Washington State, and hand-picked when ready. At our grower’s orchard pickers will make up to 4 passes on each tree during the harvest season to ensure cherries are picked at their full ripeness (as opposed to picking the entire tree at once and including cherries not yet ripe). This makes FruitShare’s cherries about the sweetest things on the planet.

Typically cherries are picked and refrigerated immediately following to maintain freshness. With our organic cherries–grown without the use of pesticides and fungicides– this is especially true. Growing organic cherries can be tricky but we have growers who believe it is worth it!

Should I buy organic cherries?

Many people ask, do cherries need to be organic? Well, we certainly think so. Don’t believe us, though, you can also check on the Environmental Working Group’s annual Dirty Dozen list (EWG is a great consumer resource group that also tracks the safety of cosmetics and skin care products). Here is a brief excerpt from their explanation of the 2017 Dirty Dozen report:

“For the Dirty Dozen list, EWG singled out produce with the highest loads of pesticide residues. This year the list includes, in order, strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, celery, grapes, pears, cherries, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, and potatoes.

Each of these foods tested positive for a number of different pesticide residues and contained higher concentrations of pesticides than other produce.”

The EWG report emphasizes something we have known and believed in for years: Pesticides can’t be good for your body or the planet and should be avoided when possible. What’s great is that our products are all certified organic and we offer all of the fruits listed in bold above.

Do Cherries have Pesticides?

In addition, the USDA keeps data on pesticide use. The USDA Pesticide Data program cited dozens of pesticides found on cherries in 2015 including many suspected carcinogens and also known hormone disrupters.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “the health effects of pesticides are not well understood, but their use has been associated with conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and neurological effects”. Pesticides are used to control pests such as mites, scale, cherry fruit fly, powdery mildew, Coryneum and bacterial canker and are sprayed on the trees at various times throughout the year.

Some pesticides are used during the dormant stage of the tree to reduce pests that might overwinter on the tree, while others are applied throughout the growing season including while the fruit is forming on the tree. Given that the instructions for pesticide use include using the appropriate protective clothing, we kinda think we might want to avoid these chemicals as well!

Fungicides are used to prevent diseases on the fruit including brown rot, green rot, and powdery mildew. Fungicides are often sprayed at both the Bloom stages, and also 1-10 days pre-harvest. The long-term effects of fungicides on humans are still unknown. The use of fungicides is largely unknown by consumers, yet they have been conditioned to expect fruit will have a very long shelf life.

Do I put cherries in the Fridge?

We ship our cherries with ice packs and, depending upon your location, strongly recommend 2-day shipping. When your cherries arrive be sure to open the box immediately and place your cherries in the fridge. Again, while you may be used to seeing a bowl of cherries on the counter, organic cherries are not treated with fungicides so they do not hold up well in this scenario.

Wash the cherries when you are ready to eat, not before. Washing them makes them more prone to spoilage. Most of our customers tell us that they have no trouble getting through the cherries and often need to order more. If you find a cherry in the mix that is starting to break down or go soft, take this one out immediately and toss, then wash any of the surrounding cherries, pat dry and refrigerate.

Can I freeze cherries?

We tend to eat most of our cherries fresh but you can freeze cherries. Frozen cherries are great in quick breads and baked goods. Cherry jam is also a great option. We recommend removing the pits with a cherry pitter (or an olive pitter works great too!). With the pits removed you know the cherries are safe for crisps, pies and your dental work will thank you!

In fact, many people wonder, “Is it ok if I swallow a cherry pit?” Cherry pits, like apple seeds, contain amygdalin, which releases cyanide when metabolized. The body can process trace amounts of this naturally (and very little is produced if the pit is swallowed whole vs ground up). One cherry pit swallowed whole should not cause the body harm–but generally, it is good to avoid the pits.

Related: Organic cherries and Breakfast Oats

How do you know when cherries are ready to harvest?

Here in Winnipeg, we’re lucky to be able to grow some amazing cherry varieties. Yes, they’re tart, but they’re super versatile and oh so good. And, if you allow them to fully ripen, some varieties (Romance Series – Juliet, Romeo and Cupid) can be sweet.

General Guidelines

Here’s a rough idea of when our prairie hardy cherries ripen, but it truly does depend on what the spring and summer have been like.

Nanking cherries – mid to late July or early August
Evans cherries – late July to mid August
Carmine Jewel – mid July to early August
Juliet, Romeo, Cupid, Valentine & Crimson Passion – late July to mid August

Romance Series – sour cherries developed by University of Saskatchewan

Signs They’re Ready to Harvest

Color

Wait for the deepest richest color that you’ve ever seen on your cherries. The nanking cherries in the first picture are not red enough – wait for it as the taste will be so much sweeter!

If you’ve never seen the cherries your picking before, look around the bush to see the different color variations. Find the deepest, darkest one you can find. Now compare it to the majority of cherries on the tree – are most of them as dark or are a lot of them much lighter? Do you see the subtle difference in ripeness on the nankings below? You want the majority of the cherries to be a rich, deep color.

Nanking Cherries – not quite ripe Nanking cherries – ripe notice the deeper color and the plump roundness

Taste

Give them a try. If your mouth puckers up and feels like all the liquid in your mouth has been sucked up – they’re not ready. Yes, these are sour cherries, but it should be a pleasant sour.

Overall Look

The cherries should look full, plump and juicy. Notice in the second photo of the nanking cherries above that the cherries are fully round and plump.

If they’re starting to look wrinkly, it’s definitely time to pick ’em. If they are starting to get wrinkly, go ahead and pick them, but be prepared to process them right away – they’ll make awesome juice. Just don’t keep them in the fridge as they won’t last very long at all.

Pickability

Ripe fruit is easy to pick. When the cherry stem pulls easily from the tree your cherries are ready to harvest. If you need to tug and twist and pull, chances are the cherries aren’t quite ripe

Picking Tips

Grip the stems of the cherries and twist a full turn of the wrist. To ensure a good crop next year, do not remove the spur (the little nub between the cherry stem and the branch).

Keep the stems on the cherry so they’ll store longer.

To avoid bruising and crushing, pile cherries only 3-5 inches deep. Bring plenty of containers!

Storage Tips

Keep the stem attached, pack loosely in a single layer, store in the fridge and eat within 2-4 days.

Do not wash until ready to use.

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Sweet cherries should not be confused with sour cherries, which withstand cooking and are best when used in baked goods and savory sauces. Sweet cherries enjoy a longer season than sour cherries; they typically are available through early August.

Hundreds of types of sweet cherries exist, but the most common North American variety is the large, heart-shape, dark red Bing cherry. Lighter-color sweet cherries such as Emperor Francis and Rainier are sometimes available at farmers markets.

In general, the darker the cherry, the sweeter the flavor. Whatever their color, sweet cherries should be shiny and bright. When not fully ripe, cherries are extremely firm and light in color (relative to their variety); when overripe, they are dull, mushy, sticky and shriveled.

Although unripe cherries will soften and darken slightly if left at room temperature, they will not ripen further once they have been picked. If possible, select cherries with their green stems still attached; they tend to last longer.

Cherries deteriorate quickly. Don’t rinse until just before serving. To store cherries, place them in an open plastic bag, preferably atop a paper towel to absorb moisture, and refrigerate for no more than three days.

It doesn’t take long to catch the hang of maneuvering a sharp paring knife in a manner that tidily extracts the pit. Others swear by a technique involving a partly opened paper clip: You push the pit through the fruit with the straightened portion. Or pluck the stem and gently squeeze the cherry to remove the pit. (Beware the juice; it stains.) If facing large quantities of cherries, consider purchasing a specially designed gizmo to pit cherries and olives.

Sweet cherries tend to lose their luscious, distinctive flavor when heated. Actually, most recipes for baked goods, preserves and savory sauces demand sour, not sweet, cherries (one exception is the French puffed pancake, clafouti). Those intent on substituting sweet cherries for sour (an iffy prospect) should reduce the amount of sugar slightly and add a touch of lemon juice.

Otherwise, serve sweet cherries perched atop pancakes or cheesecake, nestled among fruit salsas or under a mantle of yogurt. Whether partnered with other stone fruits, such as nectarines, peaches, apricots and plums, or enjoyed alone, they take well to a smear of goat or mascarpone cheese.

Sweet cherries are the same genus as almonds, which explains the fruit’s natural affinity for almond flavor. A simple, elegant summer dessert is a bowl of cherries with a swipe of melted chocolate or a splash of booze (kirsch, natch, but also port, Cognac and even Champagne). Or just settle down with the bowl of cherries and nothing–and no one–else.

Is Unripe Coffee Leaving Your Cup Lacking?

Coffee…. is a fruit. It’s easy to forget that when we strip the flesh from it, roast it, grind it and extract liquor from it. Have you ever tasted the difference between a perfectly ripened peach and one picked too early in order to export it overseas? The difference is astounding! The sweet, juicy, crisp peach satisfies your tastebuds like nothing else. Why would we expect differently from coffee? Harvesting cherries at the wrong time could be what makes your coffee amazing or what gives you the same indistinct coffee as everyone else.

According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s (SCAA) “Arabica Green Coffee Defect Handbook,” improper harvesting of coffee cherries influences seven potential defects.

Picking an unripe cherry could potentially give you an immature, broken, chipped, cut, or quaker bean. Picking an overripe cherry could give you either a full or partially sour bean, as well as a full or partially black bean.

Two of the defects listed in the handbook, both “Cherry Pod” and fungus, are potentially created by harvesting cherries from the ground. The remaining five defects potentially develop from picking the cherries from the tree at the wrong time.

Because there is a direct correlation between bean quality and cup quality, it is safe to say that each one of these listed defects above impacts the quality and flavor of the cupped coffee in a negative way. Easily stated, properly picked cherries produce a better quality of coffee as compared to improperly picked cherries.

The SCAA Arabica “Green Coffee Defect Handbook” states the following about cup quality of each of the defects:

  • Immature/Quaker beans generally imparts grassy, straw-like or greenish flavors and is the main source of astringency in coffee. (Like eating any other unripe fruit, you will taste more of the structural material of the fruit and not the perfectly developed sugars and acids that people love)
  • Broken/Chipped/Cut beans can cause earthy, dirty, sour, or fermented beans. (This due to the bacteria growth that takes place in and on the cracks and chips)
  • Dried Cherry/Pods/Fungus bean imperfections can cause fermented, moldy, or phenolic taste. (What a harvester might see as a opportunity not to waste, the barista see’s as a road block to a clean cup)
  • Full/Partial Sour and Full/Partial Black bean imperfections can produce sour, fermented, or even a stinker taste. (Allowing coffee cherries, aka fruit, to over-ripen on the tree has dire consequences to flavor of the cup)

Immature beans can be filtered out systematically during the washed method of processing coffee by removing the floaters when the coffee is submersed in water. While this is an effective method, it is not necessarily efficient due to the large amounts of beans that are removed. It is also not extensive in removing all defects. In order to produce a washed coffee efficiently or a high value natural coffee, proper picking remains imperative.

While improving harvesting may be as simple as declaring each bean as either ripe or not ripe, implementing high harvest standards can be very complex due to the fact that all specialty coffee is harvest by manual labor. Thus, improving harvesting requires a highly compensated and well trained work force in order to achieve higher standards.

Having a good understanding and enough knowledge about the particular variety that is being harvested is crucial for harvesting ripe cherries. Each and every variety has its own color profile at full maturity. Below is a photo that clearly shows the differing colors of different coffee varieties from immaturity to full maturity.

Cherry Picking Tips and Facts

If 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 cherries (also called tart 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. Washington State, California and Oregon are the primary sweet cherry growing states; they produce almost 90 percent the U.S.’s cherry crop. Michigan produces about 74 percent of tart cherry production

Cherry 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 preserves instructions – illustrated and easy
  • Cherry jelly
  • Cherry pie filling
  • Cherry butter
  • Cherry festivals
  • Cherry pitters – reviews and where to get them
  • How to pit cherries – several methods

Cherry varieties

Sweet cherries:

  • Bing cherries are deep red in color and sweet.
  • Blackgold – very late mid-season. Good for eating fresh. Self-fertile.
  • 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
  • Sam – early ripening, large, black sweet cherry. Ripens 11 days after Vista.
  • 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.
  • Sonata – Very large, black, and moderately sweet fruit. Self-fertile.
  • 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
  • Sunburst – large, firm fruit. Old productive variety. Self-fertile.
  • Symphony – bright red, medium-sweet very large fruit. Late season. Self-fertile.
  • Tehranivee – mid-season cherry developed in Ontario, Canada. Cracking can be a problem. Self-fertile.
  • Ulster – medium-sized, firm, dark cherry, Ripens about 2 days after Vista.
  • Vandalay – Large, red fruit with an unusual kidney shape. From Canada. Self-fertile.
  • Viscount – medium-large, firm, good, dark red cherries. Late season ripening.
  • Vista – the cherries are very dark, almost black. Large excellent-quality fruit.Mid season, ripens around the last week in June.
  • Viva – dark red, 3/4 inch fruit from Canada. Ripens around July 4.
  • White Gold are a blush cherry of moderate to large size.

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

  • 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. Ripens about 7 to 10 days after Montmorency
  • Danube Erdi Botermo has dark red fruit with a unique sweet-tart flavor. Delicious eaten fresh or in baked goods. Ripens about 1 week before Montmorency.
  • Dark-juice-tarts has juice that is red rather than clear in color.
  • Jubileum – new, from Hungary. Very large with a dark red flesh. Sweet for a tart cherry, not quite as tart as Montmorency.
  • Meteor – Medium-sized fruit with an odd shaped pit. Ripen s3 to 7 days after Northstar.
  • Montmorency, the most co,mmonly grown, traditional cherry for pies, baking and canning. Ripens around the last week of June to the first week of July.
  • 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
  • Northstar – Medium-sized, dark red fruit.
  • Surefire – A new late blooming variety from Cornell. Bright red, medium sized fruit.

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

Most 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. and a few others (see the list above) 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 fine in 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:

  • Tart Varieties
  • Sweet Varieties
  • Sweet Cherry Pollination Compatibility Chart
  • Self-fertile Sweet Cherry Varieties

Cherry Nutritional Information

Wikipedia and the USDA provide the following nutrtional analysis of cherries

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!

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:

The UK’s cherry industry, which nearly collapsed 20 years ago, has bounced back with predictions of a bumper harvest this year.

Cheap imports and high production and labour costs decimated the sector, but British growers are now set to produce about 6,500 tonnes of cherries – double the 3,168 tonnes picked in the UK last year and the highest for nearly 50 years.

Tesco says production is once again thriving and is now so strong that – along with Waitrose – the supermarket no longer needs to import the fruit during the British season in order to meet customer demand.

The UK season is notoriously short – from mid-June to mid-September, with late-season cherries coming from Scotland.

Production hit rock bottom in 2000 when the entire British cherry industry produced a paltry 559 tonnes, and with supermarkets stocking cheaper fruit from Spain, Turkey and the US.

cherry picking graphic

Now more and more British growers are enjoying better yields by using dwarf root stock, grafted on to new tree varieties.

These produce smaller trees which can be grown in plastic tunnels, creating a microclimate with temperatures similar to the Mediterranean. Picking can be done more efficiently by workers on foot rather than on ladders.

Tesco cherry buyer Jordon Watson said: “Not only is the industry back on track after a long hiatus, but the quality of the fruit this year is first-class with soft flesh, ripe with juice and an unrivalled sweetness and taste.”

Sarah Neaves, whose family farm supplies Tesco with cherries, was one of the first British growers to plant the new smaller trees.

“Over the last 10 years we have planted approximately 40,000 and, coupled with polytunnels to protect the orchard, this has revolutionised our farm,” she said.

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Another key move from Tesco has been to take an early ripening variety called Merchant, which has helped extend the British season by several weeks.

“British cherry growers are continuing to innovate and invest in new varieties and techniques every year to increase the reliability of the once incredibly volatile crop,” said Matt Hancock, chair of Love Fresh Cherries (part of the British Summer Fruits industry body), “meaning growers can adapt better to often unpredictable weather in the UK.”

David Matchett, head of food policy at Borough Market, said: “Cherry is the quintessential English stone fruit, however its short season means that most folks’ experience of it will be from an eastern European variety, which has been frozen, preserved, glacéed or concentrated.

“This is missing out on one of nature’s finest flavours – if life is a bowl of cherries, then these would have been hand-picked that morning from a Kent orchard.”

Orr’s Pick-Your-Own Cherries

  • Our sweet cherries are ripe when the color is a dark reddish black. Pick only the darkest fruit for the sweetest flavor. Cherries will not ripen after they have been picked! Tart Cherries turn a bright red and get a softer feel when they are ready.
  • Pick only in the flagged rows! Our cherry trees are planted in succession so that we have varieties to last us several weeks. Not following flagged row picking rules leaves us with overripe fruit, while the customer leaves with underripe fruit. Please help us with this!
  • Do not climb trees for your safety! Cherry tree branches are not very thick and break easily!
  • Pick with stems on to preserve cherries the longest. This is strongly encouraged on the tart cherries because they are very perishable.
  • The best cherry picking is usually on the far end of the patch where fewer pickers venture. A little extra walking is usually worth the effort for easy, prime picking.
  • All produce should be washed before eating at home. Please do not consume cherries in the field.
  • Do not overfill your containers to where cherries are falling on the ground. The weight of overfilled containers crushes the cherries at the bottom. A level-filled container is best. You can always get additional containers if needed.
  • Children must be under adult supervision at all times. Tractors in use!
  • When you get home…cool your cherries down as soon as possible after picking. Do not wash cherries until right before you are ready to eat them
  • Check the weather forecast and dress accordingly. It’s always best to wear sunscreen and staying hydrated with water is also recommended.
  • We work hard to keep Orr’s Farm Market clean and enjoyable. Please do not leave trash in the fields. Wastebaskets are available for your convenience.

Other Notes

  • NO PETS allowed in the cherry patch (or on the farm) per food safety guidelines
  • Restrooms are available. Beverages are available for sale in our Country Store.
  • Patches close for thunderstorms and remain closed 30 minutes after the last audible thunder.

Freezing Tips

Simply wash and drain well on paper towel. Place the cherries in your freezer on a cookie sheet single layered. This can be done with pits or without! After frozen, move the cherries into freezer tight containers or plastic bags and then place back in the freezer for long-term storage. The cherries are good for up to 1 year in the freezer. Great for smoothies!

Cherry picking in Door County, 2019: Many orchards a week behind, some open this week

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This weekend brings the first two of a series of festivals celebrating the cherries that make Door County a hot spot for people who enjoy heading into the orchards to pick their own.

However, a number of orchards aren’t quite ready for it.

A tough spring growing season, with unusually cool temperatures and lots of rain, is causing a number of growers to delay opening their orchards to the public until at least next week, a week or two later than usual.

The delay is mostly for the tart montmorency variety of cherries. That type was once found almost entirely on the peninsula and helped give it its Cherryland USA nickname, according to the website for Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Winery and Market. Located on the south end of Fish Creek, Lautenbach’s annually hosts its Summer Harvest Cherry Fest on the third Saturday of July.

This Saturday’s event offers most of the same favorite activities as in previous years, including complimentary wine, hard cider, beer and farm market food tastings; horse-drawn wagon rides (weather permitting); guided tours; and the popular cherry doughnut and pie eating and cherry pit spit contests.

This year, though, guests won’t be able to head into the orchards to pick their own montmorency cherries during the festival — public picking won’t be available until July 26. Fresh, pre-picked sweet cherries will be available for purchase in the market.

“We’re way behind,” Director of Marketing Carrie Lautenbach-Viste said. “It’s been really hard to predict (how well the cherries are doing) just because we’re so late this year. We had a rainy spring, it was so cold.”

Other Door County orchards are in the same boat. According to Facebook posts by the orchards and the Wisconsin Cherry Growers group (facebook.com/Doorcountycherries):

  • Soren’s Valhalla Orchards/Sorenson’s Strawberries south of Sturgeon Bay “should be gearing up around July 25” for pick-your-own tart and sweet cherries;
  • Robertson Orchards of Door County in Sturgeon Bay and Cherry Lane Orchards north of Forestville open for tart cherry picking July 26, although Robertson opens for sweet cherries Friday;
  • Zettel Farms in Baileys Harbor is holding off on announcing a date;
  • and Kielar Akers Orchard north of Forestville is aiming for the last week of July.

“You don’t want to sell cherries that aren’t ripe,” said Tom Sayer, Cherry Lane owner. “I’d rather wait a week.”

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However, a number of orchards opened or are opening this week for the pick-your-own season. The consistently warm days of the past couple weeks may have accelerated the ripening process, as noted by a post on Kielar Akers’ Facebook page.

Meleddy Cherry Orchard, between Maplewood and Forestville, opened Wednesday; Paradise Farms Orchard — Door County in Brussels opened for tart and a limited crop of yellow sweet cherries Thursday; Alexander’s Cherry Orchard in Brussels and Schartner’s Farm Market in Egg Harbor open for tart cherry picking Friday, with Schartner’s also offering sweet cherry picking; and Choice Orchards in Sturgeon Bay opens Saturday.

The season runs while cherries last, which in most cases means between one to two weeks depending on the size of the orchards, but it can run shorter. Two that opened Monday for pick-your-own sweet cherries closed almost as quickly: Sir Reginald’s Sweet Cherry Orchard in Brussels was out by the end of Tuesday, and Paradise Farms ran out Wednesday.

Sayer said the Door’s geography plays a role in why some orchards see their cherries, and other fruits, ripen earlier than others. Besides the approximately 50 miles between the southern and northern orchards, he noted that temperatures usually are warmer on the Green Bay side of the peninsula than on the Lake Michigan side, so cherries grown closer to the bay may ripen quicker.

Cherry festival products aren’t affected

Despite the late ripening, orchards and markets that make and sell cherry-based foods and beverages, and sell pre-picked cherries, have product on hand. That obviously matters to the cherry-themed festivals taking place Saturday.

Country Ovens/Cherry De-Lite in Forestville holds its annual Customer Appreciation Festival on Saturday. It features programs throughout the day by celebrity chefs Mad Dog & Merrill, Ace Champion and Jyll Everman, music and children’s activities, a pie eating contest — cherry, naturally — and six raffle drawings.

The event also, of course, offers foods that include cherry bratwurst and pulled pork sandwiches with cherry-based jalapeno, barbecue or horseradish sauce or cherry salsa. Pie and cherry ice cream sundaes also will be served. Plus, guests can sample the market’s snacks, sauces, preserves and juices made from Door County cherries.

The availability of those cherry foods is as plentiful as always, Country Ovens/Cherry De-Lite Marketing Director Jennifer Laughlin said.

“We buy and process over a million pounds of cherries a year,” Laughlin said. “It’s enough to get us through for a year and a half, two years. We’re the largest buyer of Door County cherries.”

It’s a similar situation for the Orchard Country festival. Cherry products are featured (and available year-round), and Lautenbach-Viste said the late ripening of this year’s crop won’t affect their availability. The only traditional thing missing is picking your own.

“We all plan ahead,” she said. “We know things can happen. We try to have plenty of inventory on hand from last year.”

And, Lautenbach-Viste said supplies for its well-known contest won’t be an issue.

“We won’t have cherries for picking,” she said, “but we will have plenty of pits for spitting.”

FYI

For more information on cherry picking conditions at orchards across Door County, visit wisconsincherrygrowers.org/pick-your-own-cherries.html or facebook.com/Doorcountycherries.

The eighth annual Customer Appreciation Festival runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Country Ovens/Cherry De-Lite, 229 E. Main St., Forestville, with cherry brats, pulled pork with cherry sauces and cherry ice cream sundaes; Cherry De-Lite product samples and wine tastings; and a pie eating contest at 12:45 p.m. Celebrity chefs Mad Dog & Merrill, Ace Champion and Jyll Everman take turns giving programs throughout the day. For more information, call 800-544-1003 or visit countryovens.com.

The 15th annual Summer Harvest Cherry Fest runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Winery and Market, 9197 State 42, Fish Creek. Guests can sample complimentary wines and specialty foods and try their hand at cherry doughnut- and pie-eating and cherry pit spit contests. The festival also offers wagon rides, tours of the orchards and vineyards, kids’ games, music and more. For more information, call 920-868-3479 or visit orchardcountry.com.

Also, a Cherry Festival takes place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 27 at Seaquist Orchards Farm Market, 11482 State 42, Sister Bay. It includes a cherry pit spit and pie-eating contest, water balloon games, a bounce house, dunk tank and other games. A food truck will be on hand for lunch. For more information, call 920-854-4199 or visit seaquistorchards.com.

Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected]

Classic Door County Cherry Picking

It’s getting to be the most wonderful time of the year… cherry season! The peak cherry season is mid-July to mid-August. All together, Door County orchards harvest 8-12 million pounds of cherries annually – making it the 4th largest producer of cherries in the nation.

Door County has 2,500 acres of cherry orchards and the average Door County cherry tree produces about 7,000 cherries… that’s enough to make 28 cherry pies!

It’s no surprise Door County is known for it’s delicious, red cherries. So much inspiration comes from these cherries and the trees they grow on – desserts, drinks, paintings, photography… the list goes on and on!

Sturgeon Bay alone has several orchards where you are welcome to pick your own pail(s) of cherries. Here are a few orchard locations where you can pluck the cherries from the trees:

Barnard Farms

5807 State Highway 42
Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235
Pick your own cherries (limited time only)- $12/pail

Cherry Lane Orchards

7525 Cherry Ln.
Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235
(920) 856-6864
Pick your own cherries- $13/pail

Choice Orchards Farm Market

4594 Co. Rd. HH
Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235
(920) 743-8980
Pick your own cherries-$12/pail

Meleddy Cherry Orchard

1038 Mill Rd.
Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235
(414) 379-6508
Pick your own cherries- $12/pail, $3 pitting

Robertson Orchards

2575 S. Shiloh Rd.
Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235
(920) 743-1351
Pick your own cherries- $12/pail, $3 pitting

A few items you may want to consider bringing for your cherry picking experience: water, camera, picnic blanket for lunch, bug spray, sun screen, and containers/coolers (to transport cherries home).

As you may have noticed, some orchards offer pitting for a small fee. Pickers can save time by throwing their pails of cherries into the pitter machine. The machine will mechanically take out the pit inside the cherry, making the cherries much easier to eat and cook with.

Also offered at these farms and orchards are treats and cherry related products. Items such as fresh jams, wines, pies, and plenty of fruit are sold at these locations. Typically, the orchards will only accept cash or check, so please be prepared.

Don’t miss your chance to pick cherries this season in Sturgeon Bay from the local orchards! Call the Sturgeon Bay Visitor Center at (920) 743-6246 for more information or email [email protected]

Here are some tips on how to tell when fruit is ripe:

Apricots
— In season July to August.

— Apricots should be quite hard when you buy them and will soften over a few days at room temperature.
— When ripe, will be bright orange with a rosy blush and still fairly firm.
Blueberries
— In season July to September.
— Are ripe when picked and should be blue all over when bought.
— Should be firm and sweet-smelling.
Cherries
— In season June to July.
— Are ripe when picked and should be firm when purchased.
Gooseberries
— In season July and August.
— Are ripe when picked.
— The colour gooseberries reach at maturity may differ with variety, but the fruit should be clear without wrinkles or blemishes.
Peaches
— In season July to September.
— Should be firm in the grocery store and will soften after a few days at room temperature.
— When ripe, will be slightly soft when pressed.
— Avoid peaches with wrinkled skin or a green tinge.
Raspberries
— In season July to September.
— Are ripe when picked and should be an even red colour all over.
Strawberries
— In season June to July; day neutral variety is available May to October.
— Are ripe when picked, tend to smell sweet and should be a deep red on all sides.
Watermelon
— In season July to September.
— A cream-coloured “yellow belly” showing the melon matured in the sun.

TORONTO — Fruits of the season are ripe for the picking, but how can you tell if they have reached their sweet spot?

Every fruit matures differently, meaning there’s no universal way to interpret colour, firmness or fragrance. Still, there are certain tips that can help grocery shoppers bring home the best of summer’s bounty.

Watermelon has one obvious sign indicating it’s ready to eat — a “yellow belly.” The National Watermelon Promotion Board says that’s the creamy-coloured spot you should find on its underside, proving it’s fully ripened in the sun.

The board suggests seeking a symmetrical melon without bruises or dents. Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell if a watermelon has gone off other than slicing it open. The texture will be mushier than what you expect — that doesn’t mean it’s not safe for consumption, but it’s on its way out.

Like watermelon, berries are also harvested when ripe. This makes them non-climacteric fruit — unable to ripen off the vine, unlike climacteric fruit such as bananas, which can ripen after being harvested.

A ripe berry is easy to spot.

“Colour is the main indicator,” said Kevin Schooley from the Ontario Berry Growers Association in a phone interview from Kemptville, Ont.

Strawberries and raspberries should be evenly bright red but their fragile nature means you will still see patchy berries in grocery stores. Strawberries in particular don’t always get the chance to fully ripen since they are sometimes shipped a little immature to travel better, said Schooley.

Blueberries are hardier, but it’s trickier to know when they’ve reached their peak. Even after turning blue, they can take three or four more days to reach their full sweetness on the vine.
Gooseberries should be a shade of yellow depending on the variety, but since there isn’t as dramatic colour change as other berries, there’s only one way to be certain.

“With any berries, you always want to taste to make sure,” said Schooley. He encourages going out to taste raspberries and blueberries that are in season now, especially because it’s been an “above average” season.

Another popular fruit in season, cherries, are also non-climacteric. They are picked ready to eat but a deeper red doesn’t necessarily mean more flavour.

“Colour isn’t critical on cherries,” said Glen Lucas from the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association in Kelowna, B.C. which has over 550 tree fruit farms as members.

Instead look for cherries that are firm, said Lucas.

Apricots and peaches might seem too firm at the grocery store but this shouldn’t be cause for alarm since they are climacteric fruit.

“They are picked a little underripe and have to mature,” Lucas said.

He suggests giving them a few days at room temperature to soften up.

The most important thing to keep in mind in the grocery store is to avoid fruits that look too ripe.

“Physically, you’ll be able to tell that the fruit is bruised or deteriorating,” said Lucas.

Seasons

The Australian Cherry Season lasts just 100 days – spanning the spring and summer months.

The first cherry harvest starts in October/November in the eastern mainland states and extends through to late February with the majority of cherry crops harvested during December and January.

More than 15,000 tonnes of Australia’s premium stoned fruit is picked throughout this period with climatic conditions determining harvest time across the six main cherry growing states.

Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria are the first to supply to market followed by Western Australia and Tasmania who reap their biggest returns in December and January.

Tasmania has the shortest harvest window – yet the third largest volume – at approximately eight weeks with the majority of the cherry growing states capitalizing on three to four months of harvest.

Varietal diversity impacts seasonality and timing of harvest in Australia with wide-ranging premium stone fruit varying in colour, flavour and taste amongst a short supply season.

Seasonal factors such as rainfall, humidity and frost have the capacity to impact the volume and quality of cherry crops with precise care and management required by orchardists at harvest to maximise crop output.

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