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Perfect Cherries: Tips for Picking, Pitting and Preparing

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

Color

  • 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.

Shape

  • 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

Storage

  • 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.

Preparation

  • 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.

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307 comments

Comments

Linda says …

Delicious and nutritious and many ways to eat!

Elizabeth Massa says …

Seasonal cherries from WF are so delicious that my favorite way to eat them is chilled, washed and in a bowl.

Rosanne says …

The best way to eat cherries is to pop them into your mouth and spit out the pits (in a most dainty manner).

nancy freedman says …

Whole Food cherries are the cherries on the cherry cake

Dennis Lee says …

Best to eat seasonal cherry.

Richard Ruble says …

Luv cherries!

Arlette Piaggio says …

Cherries are one of my favorites fruits! Low glysemic and it helps you to relax and sleep like a baby!

Ginger Davis says …

Frozen cherries are good in the summer.

Ron says …

Simply delicious.

MARINA says …

Love cherries in the summer with all the the sweetness and wonderful nutrients. High in Vitamin A and Vitamin C, not to mention cherries help you sleep better at night!! Love them!!!

Jerry Calderon says …

Want to win so badly

Kurt Goehrig says …

Cheery Pie a la mode (spelling?) has always been an all time favorite of mine since early childhood. And they are healthy for you to boot. KG

Lisa Rudolph says …

I dry the cherries and add them to my oatmeal! 250 degrees for 4 hours.

Karen says …

5 lbs of cherries. yum...yum

michelle says …

Love cherries!!!!

della wilt says …

I love this time of year::: fresh cherries and then I freeze them and they make great snacks after work, or when I am watching TV. Cheery Cobbler is my favorite too.

Rosie says …

Cherries are my husband's favorite; he won't eat many other fruit so this would be ideal for him. I'd like to save the cherry pits; good for UTIs according to Michael Tierra.

Rosie says …

Cherries are my husband's favorite; he won't eat many other fruit so this would be ideal for him. I'd like to save the cherry pits; good for UTIs according to Michael Tierra.

dee says …

very good.

Wendy Feldman says …

Do you also sell pie cherries or sour cherries?

J.W. Piatak says …

Cherries Jubilee over Vanilla Ice Cream.

gin says …

natural lip stain (who needs lipstick)... cherries are the BEST fruit! yumm!!

pat says …

We eat cherries for New Years. Rinse off, put in quart or gallon zip bag & freeze. They are great all Fall & into winter. Good site is Sweet preservation.com for canning, freezing, etc.

Lindsey says …

If I won 5# of cherries, I would eat some (of course), try to make jam, and share the rest with wonderful co-workers =)

Ghada says …

If you get migraines, try eating cherries.

THOMAS TOWERS says …

look forward to chery season all year long.

Melinda DeLong says …

I like to get them fresh and split them up in baggies for easy snacking.

Sandy says …

How do I register to enter the contest

Cindy Coxwell says …

Very, very helpful information you have provided re cherries! Thank you.

Shawn Hegner says …

Whole food cherries put in a Caribbean cask scotch poured on pork, yum

Enid sherman says …

We have a fabulous cherry pitter. It does the job quickly and exactly! Freezing cherries for pies in the winter makes for alot of fun!

Janet says …

Cherries are one of my favorite fruits, great in a fruit salad, dried for a lettuce salad, and good in a sweet salsa!

Melody Cooper says …

I love cherries! My favorite fruit. So good for inflammation and they taste so yummy! I try to eat a small bowl of them every evening if I can get them. :)

Joan brescia says …

Cherry Sours; cherry smoothies, cherry snacking...yumm

lynn says …

I grew up on a farm where one crop was cherries. Sitting at the kitchen table .pitting chetties we would eat the next winter was fun. More fun than picking cherries.

Julia says …

would like to win 5 lbs. of cherries

genique Lazzar says …

Cherries are one of the most popular summer fruits, cherries are not only delicious, they're also good for you, here are some of the benefits . Arthritis benefit ,heart health, cancer protection, memory booster, high in beta-carotene, and sleep aid. I hope people love to eat them just like my family do.

Kathy says …

Serving suggestion: eat until your stomach begins to hurt.

Gwyneth carpenter says …

Whole foods has the best cherry sooo, sweet juicy and sweet. I stop eating cherry for years until this summer. Thansks whole foods love you guys!!!!

Dennis Slaughter says …

Love cherries!

Christina Boechler says …

I love cherries! My mom makes an amazing rhubarb cherry jam!

Sophia says …

Love the color, love the taste! Somehow chilled makes them tastier to me. Cherries need no adornments. Perfect solo!

Liz says …

Cherry Vinagrette sounds fab!

Maureen Springmeyer says …

I hope I win I love cherries

Cynthia Coley says …

Cherry Pie, nothing better!

Jennifer Campbell says …

My favorite is vegan cherry almond scones homemade of course. I however am not beyond just having a big bowl full.

Charleigh44 says …

Cherries are fantastic with chicken dishes; we love tossing a handful onto vanilla Greek yogurt with a handful of granola for breakfast.

Anthony says …

Addicted to cherries, literally. So excited about cherry season.... Cherrypalooza in Chicago

Emily Rasbornik says …

I would grill cherries! Or make cherry brandy slushie!

Ken Ropp says …

I LOVE cherry season. It reminds me of my home town in Traverse City Michigan.

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