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Perfect Cherries: Tips for Picking, Pitting and Preparing

By Molly Siegler, June 26, 2013  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Molly Siegler

Cherry Salsa with Balsamic Vinegar and Basil

Cherry Salsa with Balsamic Vinegar and Basil

Sweet fresh cherries are one of the major highlights of summertime. A bowl of these beauties with their perfectly joined stems can’t be beat, but it’s almost more fun to get creative in the kitchen with this diminutive stone fruit.

Explore the different varieties of cherries available during their short summer season and see how many cherry-themed meals you can sneak in.

Types and Temperaments

  • Bing cherries are the most common variety available. These cherries are deep red in color and perfectly sweet.
  • Rainier cherries are golden yellow with a swath of pink or red blush. These cherries are particularly large and sweet with more of a floral flavor then the rest of the bunch.
  • Skeena cherries appear later in the season than Bing and Rainier. These dark red cherries are firm in texture and juicy.
  • Staccato cherries are a deep purply red and another later season variety. These cherries are large and super-sweet.
  • Sweetheart cherries are late bloomers and arrive several weeks after the rest of the group. These cherries are large and bright red with a more subdued sweetness.

Mixed Lettuces with Spiced Cherry Vinaigrette

Mixed Lettuces with Spiced Cherry Vinaigrette

Pick the Best


  • Cherries should be uniformly and richly colored with shiny skin.
  • Some cherry types will have uneven coloring (remember the Rainier blush?), but this is part of their charm.
  • Avoid cherries with brown patches or bruising, which could indicate overripe fruit.


  • Cherries should be plump and firm.
  • If cherries are wrinkled or shrunken, they may be drying out and past their prime.

Anything else?

  • Cherry stems should be green, which indicates freshness.
  • If cherry stems are missing, be sure to check the area of the cherry where the stem attaches and avoid any cherries that have developed mold.

Fresh Cherry Compote with Orange-Scented Mascarpone

Fresh Cherry Compote with Orange-Scented Mascarpone

Store and Savor


  • Store unwashed cherries in the refrigerator.
  • Cherries can last up to a week after purchase, but eat them as soon as possible for the best results.
  • Cherries can be washed in larger batches if needed, but it’s best to just wash the amount you plan to use.
  • To freeze cherries, allow washed and stemmed cherries to dry completely. Next pit the cherries and in resealable plastic freezer bags.

Pit-y Party

  • Pitting cherries can be a pain, but don’t let that deter you from using this sweet fruit in cooking and baking.
  • If you need the whole cherry (and don’t have a cherry pitter), toothpicks and lobster picks are great for gently digging into the cherry at the stem end and scooping out the pit. Use a chopstick or a straw to shove the pit through the cherry in the same manner as a cherry pitter.
  • If you don’t need the whole cherry, simply cut around the stemmed cherry with a paring knife and twist the fruit off the pit as you would with larger stone fruits like peaches and plums.
  • Don’t be ashamed to wear a dish towel as a bib when you’re pitting cherries as the juice can splatter and stain.
  • Some baked preparations, like the fresh baked custard clafouti, traditionally call for baking whole cherries (pits and all) into the batter. If you choose this route, just be sure to warn your guests of the hidden pits.


  • Blend pitted cherries with silken tofu for an easy dip to serve alongside summer’s fruit
  • Toss halved cherries with mixed greens for an instant salad brightener.
  • Dice fresh cherries and combine with hot peppers and cilantro for a striking salsa.
  • Fold chopped fresh cherries into pancake and muffin batters for an extra way to enjoy the season.
  • Quickly poach cherries with a splash of wine and fresh herbs for an elegant ice cream topper.

Whole Wheat Cherry Pancakes

How do you celebrate cherry season? Share your pitting techniques and serving suggestions in the comments section below.

Category: Food & Recipes, Produce




Linn says ...
06/26/2013 4:43:30 PM CDT
Mary Fruen says ...
Cherries are one of my favorite foods. Of fruits, they're exceptionally low glycemic index. Please don't post my last name.
06/26/2013 4:51:23 PM CDT
marilyn gilbert says ...
The BEST use of cherries, is if they are "twin cherries" (two joined at the stem) you can wear them as earrings--my grandma always did this for me!!
06/26/2013 4:51:56 PM CDT
Rene Kram says ...
Cherries are delicious and great for your uric acid!!!!Its nature's fresh natural medicine for people with arthritis, fatigue and its energy boosting qualities make the individual as healthy as always...Try it and you will see what I mean, those with knee and elbow pains, feel the change!!!!
06/26/2013 4:55:47 PM CDT
Dane Brooks says ...
Pick Me!!!
06/26/2013 5:10:35 PM CDT
Ramona Ingrassia says ...
HI! One of my favorite fruits of all time. Love those little rascals. The way we do our pitting is we have a pitting spitting contest at my friend's house. He has a tree that produces more cherries than carter has pills! It's fantastic. He covers it up to keep the birds away and then a group of us go over there and gorge ourselves and end up having a "who can spit the pit the furthest" contest! It's one of our rituals and I just laugh myself silly! I also make a mean cherry pie for my girlfriend each year whose birthday is on the 4th of July and we celebrate watching the fireworks from far and wide right in Sausalito with the best view in town. Fun time.
06/26/2013 5:15:29 PM CDT
Jeff A. Clough says ...
I use them in pies, I puree them for using in my home brew, and I eat them by the handfuls (okay, bowlfuls a handful at a time). We also use them in crepe's!
06/26/2013 5:19:34 PM CDT
Debra Hannon says ...
My favorite fruit and time of year! I can eat the whole 5 pounds by myself.
06/26/2013 5:22:20 PM CDT
Laura Newton says ...
They are yummy so many ways!
06/26/2013 5:25:24 PM CDT
Ruth Goldberg says ...
Since I was a little girl one of my favorite fruits in the summer is cherries but I love most fruit.
06/26/2013 5:28:59 PM CDT
martin says ...
when is whole foods having their annual cherry sale
06/26/2013 5:29:24 PM CDT
Ruth Goldberg says ...
Since I was a little girl one of my favorite fruits in the summer is cherries but I love most fruit.
06/26/2013 5:30:13 PM CDT
Janet Engelson says ...
I just eat them raw, freshly washed and cold and they never last long!
06/26/2013 5:33:35 PM CDT
Elizabeth says ...
I use a cherry/olive pitter. I recently had a lovely dish of Roasted new onions with Cherries, and baby arugula over quinoa. It included roasting the baby onions in olive oil salt and pepper 400 degrees 10 min. Cook 1 cup of quinoa in 1 1/2 cup water. Boil 4-5 min put lid on turn off heat until water is absorbed. Fluff quinoa. Mix cooked quinoa with chopped parsley and lemon juice. Plate quinoa. Pit and halve cherries place in pot with 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and 4 tbsp sugar. Simmer and reduce by 1/2 . Place roasted onions on plated quinoa and top with baby arugula and Cherry balsamic syrup. Yum.
06/26/2013 5:35:37 PM CDT
Donna Candia says ...
Make a smoothie in my Vitamix!!
06/26/2013 5:43:44 PM CDT
Charlene carter says ...
I need cherries for my pies
06/26/2013 5:44:52 PM CDT
Mrs Chernitsky says ...
Um Cherries!
06/26/2013 5:47:39 PM CDT
Barbara says ...
Wow Rene good info I didn't know any of the points you mentioned. Thanks
06/26/2013 5:51:08 PM CDT
kb says ...
I hope they are organic because cherries are on the dirty dozen list;(
06/26/2013 5:52:47 PM CDT
Sara says ...
I love cherries!!!!
06/26/2013 5:55:00 PM CDT
Kristy says ...
I just bought a lb of cherries, muddled them with tequila and triple sec for the tastiest most refreshing margarita!put some antioxidants in your fun!
06/26/2013 5:57:11 PM CDT
Holly says ...
I love my cherries fresh from the bowl... i rarely cook with them because they never last long enough...
06/26/2013 6:07:10 PM CDT
A. Stone says ...
We were spoiled when visiting cousins in Germany who left a big bowl of cherries outside our bedroom door each morning for snacking on - the best treat we could have had!
06/26/2013 6:15:24 PM CDT
Lucy says ...
Cherries.... delicious proof that summer is here!
06/26/2013 6:19:35 PM CDT
chari says ...
I can honeyed cherries. They are delicious chilled.
06/26/2013 6:21:11 PM CDT