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Rainier: THE Best Cherry

By Carol Medeiros, July 16, 2011  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Carol Medeiros
Summertime means fresh cherries! As we celebrate Cherry Fest here at Whole Foods Market, we checked in with our friends at Rainier Fruit Company to get the story behind this seasonal treat. While Rainier provides us with many of the fantastic cherries we sell, one of the favorite varieties is the Rainier cherry. Known for its golden color with pink or red blush, pure yellow flesh, and firm, fine texture they are considered by many to be THE best cherry! Mark Zirkle's family has been farming in Washington State since the late 1800's, specializing in apples. About 25 years ago they began growing cherries, both dark sweet red and yellow Rainier varieties. The Rainier cherry is a cross between a Bing and a Van, developed at Washington State University. Nearly all cherry varieties are “self-unfruitful” — meaning they must cross-pollinate with other varieties in order to produce fruit. The Rainier was originally used as a pollination variety, but as growers and consumers alike fell in love with the delicious flavor and extraordinary sweetness, Rainier Fruit Company began planting orchards dedicated to Rainiers. This single variety focus is especially important for Rainier cherries because they require specialized attention, care and labor to cultivate the most perfect cherry, showcasing the unique flavor and color of this short-season variety. The Rainier variety is extremely delicate and it takes much more care and handling to deliver a flavorful, beautiful cherry to our stores. For example, most of the Rainier orchards are completely netted to protect them from bird damage. As the fruit reaches maturity, the birds can smell the sugar and will completely devastate a crop leaving very little behind for growers to harvest. Also, a white liner is laid on the orchard floor between the rows of trees to reflect the sun up under the tree canopy, which helps in bringing on the beautiful red or pink blush to the cherry skin. When the fruit is ready for harvest, Rainier cherries are handpicked, gently washed and then hand-packed into small bags for transport to our stores. Mark says the biggest challenge is the very short two-week window to harvest, pack and sell these little gems. His favorite way to enjoy cherries? Straight off the tree — which he does often since it's the best indicator of when a particular orchard is ready to harvest! What’s your favorite way to enjoy Rainier cherries? Get ‘em while you can!
Category: Produce, Summer's Best

 

7 Comments

Comments

Lisa Gautier says ...
Is the spelling "Rainer" or "Rainier" - looks like you might have both listed on your blog post, and I wanted to make sure I got it right on my blog post about these!
07/18/2011 11:59:43 AM CDT
Allison B says ...
@Lisa Gautier: Oops! Thanks for pointing out our typos. (Our cheeks are the shade of a ripe, red cherry!) We've updated the post with the correct spelling, which is: Rainier.
07/18/2011 5:50:43 PM CDT
Dee says ...
These are the BEST tasting cherries. I look forward to them each year. The season for these gems is too short. I eat them as they are grown, sweet all by themselves.
07/22/2011 9:49:44 AM CDT
Nick says ...
I love Rainier Cherries! I was on a geology trip out west and saw miles of Rainier Cherry Orchards. I was fortunate to stop at a road stand and got as many as I could! They are excellent alone, with whipped cream, or even baked in pies! I hope they work on hybrids for longer growing seasons.
07/25/2011 1:37:05 PM CDT
Ginny says ...
I live in Connecticut and purchased a darker cherry in a bag with A RAINIER LOGO WITH MOUNTAIN PEAK IN BACKGROUND. They are not what is shown above but are DELICIOUS.
08/08/2012 12:19:47 PM CDT
Angela Chung says ...
I live in Orange County, CA and I was looking to buy these products. Are these cherries still available in stores?
09/17/2012 11:04:06 AM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@ANGELA - I would encourage you to check with your local store to see what the have in stock. Our products vary between store locations and regions. You can find their contact information at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/list.
09/17/2012 1:09:40 PM CDT