Our farming background began with organic apples. After years of excellent results, we decided to expand into cherries. We were like, wow, we’re so kick-ass in apples why not go into cherries too?! Whoa, not the same! Let’s just say our years of experience in organic cherries have taught us to be humble and continuously study the art of growing excellent cherries.
Of all the fruit we grow, cherries are the most labor-intensive, they have the shortest season and are the most vulnerable to bad weather! We’ve learned a lot and want to share what we aspire for each year. Here are our cherry buying tips from the farmer. Don’t forget eating delicious cherries is only half the experience; the other half is the pit-spitting contest. Enjoy!
Buy when cherries are in season
The cherry varieties that we grow include Rainiers, Skeenas, Lapins, and Sweethearts. Rainiers, as you know, are a blush cherry. Skeenas, Lapins, and Sweethearts are dark cherries. We grow our cherries in Chelan, Washington at the 2000′ elevation level that puts us a little later than the lower elevations of Chelan. We start our season at the beginning of July with Rainiers. Skeena’s begin by the second week of July, followed by Lapins and we finish July with our Sweethearts.
Look for these five qualities for the best tasting cherries
#1 Organic Seal
Only 3.2% of cherry farmers in Washington State are organic based on statistics in 2018. Cherries are very hard to grow organically because of cherry powdery mildew. Conventional systemic sprays handle this fungus immediately. Quick fix synthetic fertilizers also significantly simplify cherry farming. Hence most cherry farmers choose the conventional approach. Not us.
In contrast, organic farming has no synthetic quick fixes. Our diligent attention to everything, including soil management, makes for a much safer and more flavorful eating experience with the benefits of extra nutrients. Just like the terroir makes a difference in the flavor of the wine, a nutrient-rich organic soil makes the difference in cherries.
#2 Dark red cherries with green stems
Our farm team grew those cherries! I’m so proud to share this photo as an example of how cherries should look when you purchase them. Notice the cherry color is a shiny deep dark red. The darker red they are, the sweeter they are! The bright green stems prove the cherries are fresh. We know the cherry-picking happened early in the morning before the heat of the day. When the cherries come out of the orchard, we hydrocool with 32-degree water to lower their core temperature as quickly as possible. Keeping them continuously cold ensures their freshness, so they stay firm and have a boosted shelf life. After you buy them, put them in the refrigerator immediately.
Farmer Bill actively participates with the crew during harvest. Let’s review farmer attire: leatherman in a case on the belt, a baseball cap with sunglasses on top, shorts with pockets everywhere, safety vest, and this year a Covid-19 mask.
#3 Minimal handling injuries
Cherries are similar to apples in that picking should be gentle; otherwise, bruising can happen. Our hand picking technique is to pick where the cherry stem attaches to the branch and gently place the cherry into the picking bucket to minimize handling injuries.
#4 Large size
Since fruit size can increase by 40% from the earliest picking date to full maturity, a large cherry may indicate a more ripe cherry, and a large cherry is a better-tasting cherry. Fun fact, a smaller cherry does not mean a smaller pit.
Our cherries are quite firm. Firmness adds to the eating quality and shelf life. To maintain that firmness, only rinse the cherries when you’re ready to eat them. Cherries absorb water, and storing them after rinsing will soften them, causing a shorter shelf life. Our cherries stay amazingly firm in the refrigerator even after the stem turns brown and dies.
Now that you know how to buy the best cherries, you can study up on cherry pit-spitting. World Champion pit-spitter Rick will prep you for the contest you’ll have after eating your delicious cherries!