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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

Liz Jessup says …

Happy just to eat them!

Carla says …

I can't wait to try the fresh fruit compote. Great for dessert for my six year old.

Amy E says …

Cherries are so good just plain or on top of smoothie in summer. Or non-vegan, make cherry sauce and put over beef slices with lettuce wrap.

pamela says …

I love fresh cherries for snacking and making dishes better

Mamdouh says …

Love it

Pam says …

I place the cherries on a cutting board, cover with wax paper, and tap with my meat mallet. I don't lose much juice and it's so easy to pick out the pit.

Rita B says …

Chopped cherries, apple, strawberries, blueberries,walnuts and steel cut oats covered almond milk overnight is my go to summer breakfast.

Sandy Parker says …

I take the stems off and wash them.....I use my olive pitter!!

Angelena says …

I wonder how many cherries I could eat if I had unlimited access... I'm a little afraid of the possibilities.

Elizabeth Soleimany says …

After pitting them sautee them lightly with sugar and little butter and let steam for the last minute in a basmati rice with saffron which goes well with chicken kabob! Mmmm

Ann says …

I would agree cherries are delish with French toast and real maple syrup. Simple yet elegant.

Tuni says …

I LOVEEEEEEEE cherries! I truly have to limit myself when presented with a bowl. YUMMMMMMMMY. ohhhhh and how delish are they in a protein shake...ahhhhhhhhh ridiculous.

Francine says …

I want to try the Cherry Salsa.

desiree rederford says …

Tasted

Barbara Chamberlain says …

Do the darker cherries have more antioxidant properties?

Irene Smalls says …

Cherrytime is the best time of year. I LOVE CHERRIES! In season I have cherries as a whole meal. I pit the cherries as I eat. They are so delicious. I eat them raw. To cook them would be to gild the lily.

Ginger says …

We love cherries just plain, sweetened slightly to put over ice cream, or for my homemade cherry pie. I just pit them with a knife!

Bev says …

1. Purchase a large bag of Rainier cherries at Whole Foods. 2. Feed them to the driver of your car and yourself on the way home. 3. Talk about the experience, ooh and aah, and express your delight all the way!

Tracy Klepacz says …

I don't ever buy cherries and would love to learn how well I can make them enjoyable as part of my meals.

Nancy says …

Do you also sell tart cherries? Looking for them everywhere!

Linda says …

Poached cherries sounds wonderful

Chris says …

Cherries are great to ward of muscle soreness as well!

Nancy G says …

I love this time of year when the cheery's are the best! Pancakes, jellies, salads or just plain popping them in your mouth while watching TV! At WHOLE FOODS-they're always fresh. And then the health benefits weigh in!

Laurel says …

Nature's Kiss!

Mary says …

I love cherry season-! It really signifies summer for me- I use fresh cherries and bake a cherry cobbler- For the Fourth of July celebration- I bake a cherry and blueberry cobbler with fresh whip cream- very patriotic with the red, white and blue!

Minh Jones says …

We all love cherries I ate them as much as I could before the season is gone

karen jacobson says …

LUUUUUUUUUUUUV cherries and WF has the absolute freshest!

Angelina says …

Cherries are one of our favorite fruits !

Janet Dinelli says …

We would eat them with our friends and family- how perfect.

Claire says …

Cherries are nature's dessert! I feel like I'm indulging in something sweet...but they're good for me!

Michelle says …

Love that tasty cherry pie with ice cream!

Ann Walsh says …

Am never disappointed and will share ....maybe.

Traci says …

We LOVE cherries! We eat them on everything. It is one of the only fruits my 4 year old son can eat. I also eat them for my MS.

Kiu ly says …

Cherries are so yummy!

marwich@aol.com says …

A cherry sundae - with cherries surrounding the dish of the sundae and chocolate syrup slathered with whipped cream and double cherries with stems topping. The ice cream is vanilla to get the best taste when eating the cherries with it.\ ....and then the traditional ''great big bowl of cherries" is always a summer treat!

Beth Griffith says …

Cherries are awesome. They're nutricious and delicious.

FRAN KLAPPA says …

great email

rose vonbooshiit says …

we make ice cream

Violet says …

I love cherries, the flavor, the color etc. I've always enjoy this season and the cherries every year.

Jensen Ankerson says …

I love eating cherries raw or making vegan cherry Garcia fro yo..yum!!!!they are definitely a favorite!! I would love these cherries!!

HUGO DUARTE says …

More than likely my daughter and I would eat half the cherries and the rest my wife would make an awesome cherry coffee cake.

Michaela says …

Cherries are addictive, I can't eat just one! The Fresh Cherry Compote with Orange-Scented Mascarpone makes my mouth water!

Nancy says …

We love fresh cherries!! We also make a fresh cherry pie for the start of summer! When Whole Foods has their annual 1 day cherry sale we but about 10 lbs and make a cherry pie and have fresh cherries all week long!

Susan says …

With a family of 5 - we may just eat them all.

maria kalman says …

Please provide more gluten freed recipes. some us need to live a gluten free life.

Lina Liu says …

I love eating fresh cherries on their own, but they're also delicious in pies and tarts. YUM!

Kim Olson says …

I love cherries

Lava says …

A favorite in our house. My boys love to hang out with a big bowl of cherries! Yum.

brian lalli says …

Thanks for the helpful advice about cherries!

Cindy D says …

We ABSOLUTELY love CHERRIES!!! My husband is actually almost addicted to them. He gets really sad, when they are gone for the season. Yeah cherries are Back!!

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