Cherries are small plump stone fruits. In Canada, most of our cherries are grown in British Columbia and Ontario, and the peak season is from June to August. Interestingly, they require cold weather to grow, which is why they cannot grow in tropical climates.
Photo cred: Lisa Le of The Viet Vegan
There are two main types of cherries: sweet cherries and sour cherries.
Sour cherries are round in shape and tart in flavour. They hold their shape during cooking, making them ideal for baking and preserving. In Canada, you can find the Montmorency variety of sour (or tart) cherries chilled or frozen in grocery stores.
Sweet cherries are what most people think of when they hear the word cherry. They are heart-shaped fruits that are delicious any way you eat them – cooked, baked or fresh.
The most common sweet cherry varieties you’ll see in the grocery store are Bing and Chelan cherries. Bing cherries are heart-shaped, a deep mahogany, and have a sweet and vibrant flavour. Chelan cherries ripen earlier than Bings, and are firm and round, also deep-coloured and sweet. They’re also known as black cherries.
Other varieties include Ranier (the golden-yellow cherries with a reddish tint), Lapin, Sweetheart, Skeena (dark, firm, juicy, and ripen later in season than Bing and Raniers), Staccato, and Christalina cherries.
How to Select and Store Cherries
Cherries are commonly sold in bags at the grocery store. When you’re selecting your cherries, look for plump and firm cherries. Avoid cherries that are wrinkled and shrunken because they may be old, dried out or past their prime.
The colour of the stem also indicates freshness: cherries with bright green stems are fresher than dry yellow or brown stems. The same applies for picking cherries off a tree. Look for firm, plump, and deep red cherries with bright green stems. Try to keep the stems attached to the fruit but do not rip off the woody fruit spurs as those are what continue to produce cherries in subsequent years.
Cherries are best consumed immediately. However, you can store unwashed cherries in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to a week.
To Freeze Cherries
Wash and de-stem, then allow them dry. Pit the cherries, then spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Flash-freeze them individually on the tray, and once frozen transfer to a sealable plastic freezer bag.
How to Prepare Cherries
You should wash, de-stem, and pit cherries before using them. Wash them under running water first, and then gently pull of the stems. Use a cherry pitter to push out the pits, or use a paring knife to cut around the stone to half them and pop out the pits.
Be sure to discard the stems and pits, as they are inedible.
- Fresh cherries are best consumed as they are, but they’re also great when used fresh in smoothies, salads, baked goods or frozen treats.
- Use cherries as a replacement for ice if you freeze them ahead of time!
- Cherry pitters are effective tools to remove the pits, but many people use other household items instead. You can try using the blunt end of a chopstick, a straw, or even a metal pastry tip!
- Be sure to wear an apron to protect your clothes from the deep red staining that cherries are known to produce!
- Have a little fun with the kids, let them pretend that cherries can be used like lipstick for a natural, luscious red stain.
Cherries go well with
Produce: lime, blueberries, dark leafy greens, other stone fruits, radish, pineapple
Dairy: tart or creamy cheese (i.e. ricotta, mascarpone, cream cheese, goat cheese), butter, whipped cream, yogurt, crème fraiche, white chocolate, and ice cream (especially chocolate or vanilla).
Savoury: red or white wine, balsamic vinegar, almond
Sweet: dark chocolate, cola, flaky pastry, vanilla
Try adding pitted cherries to smoothies, sangria, or blended into yogurt or creamy cheeses for a fruit dip.
Cherries are wonderful in a salad of dark leafy greens and radish, with a crunch of slivered roasted almonds.
Cherries are also perfect for blending with frozen fruit for açai bowls!
You can stew or roast them, to top ice cream, yogurt, pancakes or waffles for a sweet taste, or to serve over tofu, pork, or poultry for more savoury applications. This Duck with Red Wine Cherry Sauce is an easy dinner recipe that looks impressive!
Because of their deep red colour, cherries are high in antioxidants anthocyanin and glycoside, which are said to help reduce the risk of cancer. They’re anti-inflammatory and good for muscle recovery and joint pain. They contain melatonin, a chemical known to be calming, helping relieve headaches, and developing regular sleep patterns.
According to the Canadian Nutrient File, sweet cherries (per 100 g) are just 63 calories and 0% fat. They provide vitamin C (11% of your daily recommended intake), potassium (5%), and contain 1.1 g of protein, 16 g of carbohydrates (12.8 g of naturally occurring sugar), 2.1 g or 8% of dietary fibre.