Red and yellow cherries

It’s officially summer here in the Pacific Northwest…. Cherry season has begun! From now through August, we will be picking, packing and shipping these little gems seven days a week.

In all likelihood, when visiting your local supermarket, you will find two different types of cherries. Although there are numerous varieties for each type, we classify them as Dark Sweet and Rainier. But, what’s so different between the two?

The obvious difference between them is their appearance. Dark Sweet cherries are a rich, mahogany color, whereas Rainier cherries are yellow, with a tinge of red. However, their flavor profile also sets them apart from one another. Rainiers have a lower acidity level, which results in them having higher brix (sugar content). Thus, Rainier cherries are actually sweeter than Dark Sweet cherries.

In addition, the growing season for Rainier cherries is much shorter. There is less acreage planted in the Pacific Northwest, therefore there is less volume to supply consumers with. You can find Washington grown Rainiers at retail from mid-June until mid-July. Dark Sweets, though, you will be able to find until the end of August.

Quick Fact: Developed in 1952 at Washington State University, the Rainier cherry is a cross between the Bing and the Van. It gets its name after the highest peak in the state of Washington.

How to: Select, Store & Prep Cherries

Select: Dark Sweet – Look for cherries that are a deep red, mahogany color with green stems. Rainier – Look for yellow with red blush on the shoulders of the fruit and green stems.

Store: Always store your cherries in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat. Keeping them in the refrigerator prevents them from becoming soft and helps prolong their shelf-life.
Prep: Before eating, be sure to wash your cherries by rinsing them under cool running water. Unlike some other fruits and vegetables, no additional wax is added to cherries, but it’s always a good idea to rinse your fresh produce!

Cherry Facts, Statistics, and Trivia

  • It is thought that sweet cherries originated in the region between the Black and the Caspian Seas.
  • Cherry domestication dates to before recorded history.
  • Cherries derive their name from the Turkish town of Cerasus.
  • Turkey remains the largest cherry producing region in the world.
  • Cherries migrated with the colonists from Europe in the 1600’s.
  • In 1847, a man named Henderson Lewelling traveled from Iowa to western Oregon by ox cart. He brought with him nursery stock which became the first cherry trees planted in the Northwest.
  • Seth Lewelling, Henderson’s younger brother, was responsible for the creation of the most famous sweet cherry variety grown today, the Bing, as well as the lesser known Black Republican and Lincoln varieties. As a strong supporter of President Lincoln, Seth named his cherries accordingly.
  • The Bing cherry is named after Seth Lewelling’s Manchurian orchard foreman and friend, Bing. Bing was over 7 feet tall.
  • The Rainier cherry, named after Washington State’s famous volcanic peak, was created in 1952 by cross-breeding the Bing and Van varieties. The cherry was developed by Dr. Harold W. Fogle of Washington State University in Prosser, Washington.
  • Washington State grows more sweet cherries than any other region in the nation.
  • Cherries have the shortest period between flower blossom and harvest of any tree fruit (60-75 days).
  • The maraschino cherry was created from sweet cherries.
  • This famous dessert cherry originated on the Balkan Peninsula and northern Italy where merchants would add liqueur to a local cherry called the Marasca. The cherry product that resulted was imported into the United States in the 1890’s.
  • In 1896, U.S. cherry processors began experimenting with a domestic sweet cherry. Less liqueur was used in the processing and almond oil was added. Eventually, the liqueur was eliminated altogether. By 1920, the American maraschino cherry was so popular that it had replaced the foreign variety in the United States.
  • Broadway in New York shifts west at East 10th Street because a cherry tree once stood there.
  • There are more than 1,000 varieties of cherries in the United States, but fewer than 10 are produced commercially.
  • At one time it was against the law to serve ice cream on cherry pie in Kansas.
  • The earliest known mention of cherries is in Theophrastus (372-272 B.C) “History of Plants” in which he indicated that cherries had been cultivated for hundreds of years in Greece.
  • The Philosopher Pliny suggested that the Roman general Lucullus introduced cherries to Europe around 74 BC, but some research suggests that cherries were known in Italy at a much earlier date.
  • It is said that Lucullus committed suicide when he realized he was running out of cherries.
  • Cherries are related to plums and more distantly to peaches and nectarines.
  • Cherry pits have been found in several Stone Age caves in Europe.
  • King Charles V of France planted over one thousand cherry trees in his gardens at St. Paul and Tournelle in the mid 1300’s.

Q: On average, how many cherries can be found in 1 pound of cherries? A: 65

Q: How did the Rainier variety, the yellow cherry with the red blush, get its name? A: Developed in 1952, the Rainier Cherry is named after Mt. Rainier, an icon of the state of Washington where the cherry was developed.

Q: What is the number one export market for sweet cherries grown in Washington? A: Canada

Q: When is National Rainier Cherry Day? A: July 11th

Q: What is the sweet cherries most important contribution to improving human health? A: Sweet cherries are found to reduce inflammation. Human feeding trials point to the fact that cherries really do strengthen the immune system and help fight diseases like gout and arthritis.

Yellow Cherry Varieties: Growing Cherries That Are Yellow

Mother Nature’s paintbrush has been used in ways we haven’t even imagined. We all have a common familiarity with white cauliflower, orange carrots, red raspberries, yellow corn and red cherries due to their prevalence in our local supermarkets and farm stands. But nature’s color palette is far more diverse than that.

For instance, did you know that there is orange cauliflower, purple carrots, yellow raspberries, blue corn and yellow cherries? I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel like I’ve been living a very sheltered existence. For starters, what are yellow cherries? I did not know that there were cherries that are yellow, and now I want to know more about yellow cherry varieties.

What are Yellow Cherries?

Not all cherries are red. As stated earlier, there are cherries that are yellow. In fact, there are several different yellow cherry varieties in existence. Please keep in mind that the term “yellow” references the cherry flesh more than the skin. Most of the cherries categorized as yellow actually have a predominant red blush or tint to their skin with flesh that is characteristically yellow, white or creamy. Most yellow cherry varieties are hardy to USDA zones 5-7.

Popular Yellow Cherry Varieties

Rainier sweet cherry: USDA zone 5-8. Skin is yellow, with partial to full red or pink blush and creamy yellow flesh. Early-mid season harvest. This cherry variety came to fruition in 1952 in Prosser, WA by crossing two red cherry varieties, Bing and Van. Named after Washington State’s largest mountain, Mt. Rainier, you can celebrate this sweet cherry’s goodness every July 11th for National Rainier Cherry Day.

Emperor Francis sweet cherry: USDA zone 5-7. This is a yellow cherry with a red blush and a white or yellow flesh. Mid-season harvest. It was introduced to the U.S. in the early 1900s and is considered to be one of the founding clones (major genetic contributor) of sweet cherry.

White Gold sweet cherry: An Emperor Francis x Stella cross hardy in USDA zones 5-7. This white-fleshed cherry has yellow skin with a red blush to it. Mid-season harvest. Introduced by Cornell University fruit breeders in Geneva, NY in 2001.

Royal Ann sweet cherry: USDA zone 5-7. Originally known as Napoleon, it was later dubbed “Royal Ann” in 1847 by Henderson Lewelling, who lost the original Napoleon name tag on the cherry seedlings he was transporting on the Oregon Trail. This is a yellow-skinned type with a red blush and creamy yellow flesh. Mid-season harvest.

Some other varieties with yellow cherry fruit include the Canadian varieties Vega sweet cherry and Stardust sweet cherry.

Tips for Growing Yellow Cherry Trees

Growing cherry trees with yellow cherry fruit is no different than those with red cherry fruit. Here are some tips for growing yellow cherry trees:

Research the variety you select. Discern whether your chosen tree is self-pollinating or self-sterile. If it is the latter, you will need more than one tree for pollination. Determine the proper spacing for your chosen cherry tree.

Late fall is most ideal for a cherry tree planting. Plant your tree in a sunny location where the soil is well-draining and fertile.

Know when and how to fertilize your cherry tree. Knowing how much to water a newly planted cherry tree is important too, as is when and how to prune your cherry tree so your trees produce better and more yellow cherry fruit.

Sweet and sour cherry tree varieties take 3-5 years to become fruit bearing. But once they do, be sure to have netting in place to protect your crop. Birds love cherries too!

In a culture that expects everything at every minute, there are some things you still have to wait for.

You may be able to go to the grocery store and pick up an orange in the middle of summer, or an apple in the dead of winter, but what you can’t get year round is fresh cherries. Even more limited are Rainier cherries. My wife prefers them over all other cherries. They are super sweet and don’t stain your hands like the darker cherries. There is a lot to like about them, just not a lot of time to find them. I want to guide you through the Rainier season, so you know when to expect them. I wouldn’t want you to miss out on this short, sweet season.

The first of the season Rainier cherries from California. They were going for $7.99/lb at Whole Foods Market. As the season progresses the price goes down.

Rainier Cherries Begin in California

The first Rainier cherries of the season will beginning showing up from California in late May to early June. There isn’t a huge supply of them and often the price is super high. They are only available briefly, then you may not see them in stores for a couple weeks until…

Washington Rainier Cherry Season

The state of Washington is definitely the Rainier state. When you think Rainier geographically, your mind should go straight to that Pacific state. This where the cherry orginated in 1952. It is a cross between the popular Bing cherry and the Van cherry. Late June is when the shipping of these cherries begins. The season lasts about until the beginning of August. A good year you got about 6-7 weeks to enjoys these delicate sweet cherries.

Look at those beautiful Rainier cherries with lots of red on them. Most of the time the redder they are, the sweeter they are. Taste and see for yourself.

Do Other States Grow Rainiers?

Commercially speaking I have not heard of any state outside the west coast growing Rainiers. Michigan is third in cherry production but you rarely many Michigan rainiers. I do that Jollay Orchards in Coloma, Michigan grows some. If some other state could grow them well enough commercially then they would already be doing so.

One issue with the Rainier is that they bruise easily or the bruising shows up easier because of their lighter color. They are also more likely to be damaged by wind and rain. The supply of Rainier is nowhere near as large as more traditional dark red cherry. You also have to consider that people already pay more for them, so they probably will continue to pay more for them. If you want to learn more about why they are more expensive check out this informative article from the Seattle PI.

What Stores Have Rainier Cherries?

They have become so popular that pretty much any store that carries any fresh cherries will also offer Rainier cherries at some point in the season. Stores I have seen them in the past in include Kroger, Meijer, Whole Foods, Fresh Thyme to name some. Where do you like to buy Rainier cherries? Leave a comment below.

When are Rainier Cherries the Cheapest?

Look for sales in July. Typically around the Fourth of July I can find them on sale and pay as little as $2.99/pound.

Behind the Scenes Look

Check out this video below of a Rainier cherry grower from Washington and share in his excitement for these sweet cherries.


Do you need a cherry pitter to enjoy cherries? Not necessarily. Part of the fun is spitting the pits right. However if you are going to cook with cherries or freeze a lot of cherries, that is when I think it would make your life easier to get one. I have created a handy guide to help select the best cherry pitter.

  • If you are going to buy a cherry pitter, I recommend getting one than will pit more than one cherry at a time with the ability to pit olives as well. I recommend trying the Geson Cherry Pitter, which is under $15.

If you are reading this and Rainier cherries are out of season, never fear, there are still options for you. Here a couple

  • Chukar Cherries Dried Rainier Cherries – They would be great in muffins or other baked goods. And don’t forget the salads.
  • Tillen Farm Rainier Cherries in a Jar – Put these on top of your next sundae. Their jarred cherries are by far the best I have tasted. Tillen Farm is a brand owned by Stonewall Kitchen – famous for their gourmet jams and other products. If you want to order the jars cherries directly from Stonewall you get 20% off your next purchase when you order with a free membership!

Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links. This means that at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. These are products and services I recommend because I use or trust them. Cookies will be used to track the affiliate links you click.

What’s the difference between Bing Cherries and Rainier Cherries?

By : The Pittman & Davis Team | | On : May 8, 2019 | Category : Fruit Information

June is fast approaching, and that means local markets and online stores will soon be offering fresh cherries for sale. Unlike some fruits which are available all year round, cherries are only available for a short amount of time. For this reason, it’s important to know your options and which kind to get especially if you’re considering sending out cherry gifts. For this purpose, we’ll compare two of the most popular types of cherries, Bing cherries and Rainier cherries. Despite being very easy to tell the difference at a glance, these two kinds of cherry are actually more closely related than they appear. Both are related to Prunus avium, or bird cherries, named as such since birds are known to snack on them.

Bing Cherry

The first Bing cherry comes from Milwaukie, OR and was bred back in 1875 by Seth Lewelling and his Chinese foreman, Ah Bing, from where this cultivar gets its name. They are large and firm, have a deep red to mahogany color once ripe, and are usually available only in July. They are the most cultivated variety of cherry and are perfect for eating out of hand, using in desserts, or canning. Bing cherries always make dessert extra special once they’re in season.

Rainier Cherry

This particular kind of cherry is named after the Mount Rainier in Washington. It is actually a cross between the Van and Bing Cherry and was first bred in 1952 by Dr. Harold Fogle in Washington State University. Rainier cherries are also known as sweetheart cherries, and have a creamy yellow flesh, with an outer skin of blush red. This sweet, delicately flavored drupe is actually more suited for salsas, salads, and of course, eating out of hand. They are less common than Bing cherries, so they can cost significantly more. Rainiers are available between June and July.

Sweet Cherries

Both the Rainier and Bing cherry fall under the category of sweet cherries are arguably at their best when eaten out of hand. These tasty summer treats are not only sweet, they are also healthy options to include in your diet when they are in season. Like most fruits, cherries are known to be rich in antioxidants which have a positive impact on your health. Studies show that cherries have a positive impact on inflammatory conditions like gout and arthritis. They also contain anthocyanin, which helps the body produce more insulin and helps improve memory. They said to improve sleep quality. Their high fiber content also helps in lowering the risk of colon cancer and helps in weight control.

Given the limited time of availability of these gourmet cherries, they make for a very thoughtful gift option during the summer season.

Buy Bing Cherries Online

Beat the summer heat by enjoying our delicious Sweet Red Bing Cherries, only available in mid-summer. Bing Cherries are loved for their dark red color, large size, and intensely sweet flavor. These plump beauties are grown in the Pacific Northwest Mountains, where they are nourished by rich soil and crystal clear rivers. Rich in antioxidants, Bing Cherries are a sweet but healthy snack. Shop Now

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