Growing up in BC I knew it was finally summer when school was out and the fruits became ripe on the trees. An annual family vacation to the Okanagan was always highlighted with a cherry picking adventure. We would make an afternoon of going to the orchard, grabbing a tin bucket and filling it to the brim with fresh cherries. We would all then proceed to eat sitting at the beach until our stomachs told us “No more!”. Needless to say, cherry season in BC is a favourite time. This guide to cherries will give you tips for picking cherries and the best way to choose cherries. Before you head out to the local orchard, read up on how to pick cherries for a bountiful harvest.
Our summer road trip would end with a stop at the fruit stand to buy a flat or two to take home. Beautiful dark luscious cherries start the Okanagan’s summer fruit harvest, usually around the third week in June. Late-ripening varieties carry the season well into August.
Cherry Lover Tips & Tricks
- Dip cherries in ice water before eating them to make each bite crisp and cool.
- Paper clips make great cherry pitters. Unfold a paper clip and insert the end bend of the clip through the top of the cherry. Loosen the pit and pull it out.
Bring on Cherry Season in BC!
Now that the winter season has officially surpassed, we are getting into the season of fresh spring-time fruits that just fill you up with excitement and joy. Personally, I find that cherries are the best fruits to enjoy this time of year simply because this is the time of year they are in season. They are so easy to find and delicious in a wide variety of dishes from savory dinners to sweet desserts!
People who try and tell me they don’t like cherries…they just haven’t experienced cherry season in BC yet. They simply haven’t been told the proper way to harvest cherries and find their favourite kinds! That’s why I created this guide to cherries, to teach you how to pick cherries, provide you with information of the best way to choose cherries, and how you can use them in future dishes!
What do I Need to Know about BC/WA Cherries?
The BC/WA area is absolutely one of a kind and particularly popular during cherry season! The area is home to numerous varieties of cherries due to its beautiful climate and futile soil. Before you hit the grocery store (or the wild!) for some plump fruits, it’s important to understand the different types of cherries that the BC/WA area offers!
Being the most popular cherry variety grown in the Okanagan area, lambert cherries are not as sweet as more common varieties. However, their tart nature makes them ideal for adding to fruit tarts or pies since the tartness will balance out any overload of sweet! If you have more of a “bitter-tooth” than a sweet tooth, this is the cherry for you!
The most common kind of cherry found in supermarkets, bing cherries are the ones you see that resemble the shape of a heart. They are a deep maroon color and are known for their sweet taste!
Ideal for those who crave sweetness and are a fan of anything aesthetically pleasing rainier cherries are going to be your go-to! These are a little less commo in supermarkets, but they tend to hit shelve around July and stick around for quite some time. They are light pink/white color with some deep red hues scattered throughout their body.
Grown in the BC/WA area for the longest amount of time, Van cherries make the perfect as-is snack! They’re the epidemy of bite-size and are perfect for canning due their sweet taste. Many people will throw them into tarts as well for a sweet dessert!
This kind of cherry is best for canning and making jams/preserves. Contrary to their name, these little cherries have a bitter taste that some love to eat as-is, but most prefer to enjoy as a jam on their toast!
Another popular branch off the cherry tree, Skeena cherries are immensely popular in supermarkets, so you will most likely see them on your next trip! They are the large, dark red cherries you envision when you hear the word “cherries”.
When is Cherry Picking Season in BC/WA?
What kind of guide to cherries would this be is we didn’t discuss the optimal time for cherry picking in BC/WA? Now that you have a solid understanding of the kinds of cherries that the BC/WA area houses, let’s talk about when the best of time of year is to harvest cherries. Whether you want to pick cherries straight from the tree, or grab a box from the grocery store, your best bet is to grab some between late April and late July! This is PRIME time for harvesting cherries in the BC/WA area as this is the time of year that cherries are in season.
When is Cherry Blossom Season in BC/WA?
Cherry blossoms are among the most photographed trees in the world. Known for their gorgeous pink color, people just adore seeing them bloom, but they don’t last long so you have to catch them while you can! Cherry blossom season in the BC/WA area is mid-February to late May!
Tips for Cherry Picking
If your plan is to head out into the wild for your cherry picking, it’s crucial that you understand when and how to pick cherries. You don’t want to spend all of that time and energy on harvesting cherries only to discover you picked an entire basket full of under ripe ones! Cherry season in BC and WA needs to be done right, so you can enjoy those luscious berries longer. These tips for picking cherries will get you off to the right start.
Of course, you also need to understand how to pick cherries at their peak of ripeness as well! The “when”, of cherry picking comes down to personal preference. If you prefer the traditional sweet cherry flavour, you should be picking cherries when they are a deep red colour. However, if you prefer cherries that are a bit more bitter or tart, pluck the ones that are less vibrant in hue. I hope these tips for picking cherries help you on your next visit to the orchard.
Should you Pick Cherries with the Stem?
Among the most crucial tips for picking cherries is the question of harvesting cherries with and without a stem!
The answer to this question depends heavily on when you plan to consume the cherries you’ve just purchased. If you’re looking to turn them into jams or put them in pies immediately upon purchase, you’re best harvesting cherries without the stem. This will save you time and energy in the kitchen!
However, if you want to consume them over the course of a few days or couple of weeks, you should pick your cherries with the stem on. Keeping the stem on will keep the skin of the cherry intact and prevent it from going back too quickly.
How Long do Cherries Last after Being Picked?
In order to be a thorough guide to cherries, we had to include information to let you know how long your cherries will last after you’ve picked them! Tips for picking cherries must include ALL the important details!
Without preservatives (such as what is used in grocery stores), if you keep the stem on the cherries, they will often last a couple of weeks before starting to go bad on you. If you do get cherries with the stem plucked off, you will need to consume them a little bit sooner as they can go bad within the week!
If you are a fan of cherries, you might also like The BEST Double Chocolate Cherry Brownies, Cherry Lime Caipirinha – Summer Cocktail, or Fresh Cherry Cheesecake Popsicles with Cookie Crumble.
Do Cherries Ripen after Picking?
Sadly, cherries will not ripen after they have been picked from their tree. This is why it’s best to read the guide to cherries thoroughly to ensure you getting all the tips for picking cherries! Make the most of cherry season in BC and WA!
How do I Choose Juicy Cherries at the Grocery Store?
Among the best tips for picking cherries is how to determine which cherries are juicy. Juicy cherries are ideal for pies, jams, and fresh desserts, but some people simply enjoy biting into a fresh and juicy piece of fruit! Choosing juicy cherries is remarkably similar to choosing ripe cherries in general. Your focus should be picking the cherries that are large and dark in color, these are often the juiciest of the bunch!
How to Clean Cherries
Thankfully, the method for cleaning cherries doesn’t change regardless of whether you brought cherries home straight from the tree or from the grocery store. Once you’ve brought home your basket of cherries, it’s critical that you clean them before you consume them! There are numerous reasons for doing so, but the primary reason is to avoid any illness that may come from consuming them unwashed. Whereas you could just rinse them in some warm water, this is not the most efficient way to clean off your cherries and isn’t recommended.
The most effective way to clean cherries is by follow this guide to cherry cleaning:
- You will need salt, apple cider vinegar, and natural non-toxic dish soap
- Fill your sink (or a large container) with warm water
- Put 2 tablespoons of salt, 2 tablespoon of ACV and 4 quick drops of natural dish soap into your water and lightly mix it all together (no need to create bubbles!)
- Submerge your cherries in the water mixture and allow them all to soak for about 10 minutes.
- Use a soft produce brush or your fingers to gently massage the fruit to get off any extra grime, dirt, chemicals that may be lingering.
- Rinse your fruit off in luke-warm water and set them in a clean container!
How do I Pit Cherries?
If you happen to have a cherry-pitter tool, you already have a leg up here. If you don’t know what cherry pitters are, they’re essentially little tools that you push into the top of the cherry that push the pit out easy peasy!
However, owning this little tool is not necessary! Pitting cherries is surprisingly easy even without a tool! All you need is a sturdy straw such a metal one, a toothpick, a chopstick, anything sharp/hard enough to push through the outer layer of a cherry. You’ll simply push one end through the top or bottom of the cherry and push the seed out of the other side and you’re golden! This method does mean you will lose the cherry stem though!
How do I Pit a Cherry Without Removing the Stem?
This is where things get a little tricky. It’s absolutely possible to pit a cherry without removing the stem, and often preferred if you’re trying to preserve ripeness. However, it’s a little more difficult.
The most efficient and effective way to go about this task if by using a potato/carrot peeler with the curved edge. You’ll push the tool into the bottom of the cherry until you feel the top of the pit with the tool and then you’ll pull it down and out. It sounds simple, but it can be tricky until you get the hang of it!
If you don’t own a potato/carrot peeler, you could get away with using a spoon, but you’ll have to bend the rules a bit here…literally. You’ll have to bend the handle of the spoon (or fork honestly) just enough to be able to curve around the pit and pull it out. If you don’t care about appearance of the cherry, you could also cut into the button half of the cherry a bit in order to pull it out easier!
How to Freeze Cherries
After going through all of this work to harvest cherries, clean them, pit them, etc., it’s beneficial to understand how to properly freeze them. Freezing cherries is a fantastic option for those who want the ability to snack on cherries year-round or those who enjoy a delicious cherry smoothie! My personal favorite is chocolate cherry but that’s just me!
Freezing cherries is quite simple, just follow this guide to freezing cherries:
- Make sure your cherries have been cleaned and pitted to your liking
- Place your cherries in an airtight container or bag
- Try to avoid over crowding your cherries or they will freeze in one giant clump which could lead to uneven freezing
- Store them away from the freezer-unit in your freezer to avoid freezer burn!
How to Thaw Cherries
Depending on how you want to use them, you’ll have to thaw your cherries in different ways. If your goal is to thaw them just for snacking, you have it easiest. Simply remove however many cherries you want from the freezer and set them on the counter until they reach your desired softness (usually 10 minutes or so)
Now if your goal is to thaw them enough to be properly cooked in a tart, you’ll need to thaw them to room temp so that they cook evenly throughout the tart. The time frame for this varies but is usually no more than 30 minutes.
Luckily, if your only desire is to use them in smoothies, they can be thrown right into the mix from the freezer!
How to Store Cherries
If freezing cherries isn’t your preference, you can always store them in the fridge! Storing cherries is remarkably simple and requires no added tools or storage units. All you need to do to store cherries is,
- Ensure they are washed and cleaned to your liking
- Pat them try with a paper towel (helps keep them fresh)
- Place them in a container that won’t leave them squished
- Place in the fridge on the bottom shelf or in fruit drawers if you have them
Cherries do not need to be stored in airtight containers in the fridge. However, if you prefer to do that, go right ahead it will do no harm!
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Benefits of Cherries
Not only are cherries sweet and delicious, but they are also good for you for so many reasons!
- High in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory components. Although the amount antioxidants may vary per kind of cherry, the fact still remains that cherries are high in these two components! Cherries have the ability to help combat stress and reduce inflammation, making it ideal for anyone who experiences inflammatory diseases such as arthritis or lives a high stress lifestyle.
- Improves heart health. Consuming just one cup of whole cherries can account for 10% of your daily value of potassium. Potassium is the prime nutrient needed in keeping your heart healthy.
- Help regulate sleep cycle. Cherries naturally contain melatonin, which helps regulate the sleep cycle. Next time you’re reaching for a pill, consider eating a small handful of cherries before bed instead to reap the same benefits!
- Boost exercise recovery. Although protein is the primary culprit of reducing post-exercise pain and accelerating recovery, cherries have been shown to play a key role in this process as well. Tart cherries in particular produce the best results here, but sweet cherries are no stranger to the task!
How to Remove Cherry Stains from your Hands
Pending the variety of cherry that you choose to munch on, you may notice some dark red stains on your fingertips, yikes! Thankfully, it’s simple to remove these stains with the help of a few additives. Follow our quick guide to removing cherry stains and you’ll be all set!
- Turn on some warm water
- Get your fingertips saturated in the water
- Use dish soap on the parts of your hands/fingers that are stained with the cherry juice. Dish soap is strong and has shown to remove stains quicker and easier than hand soap
- Gently rub your hands with a scrub brush (such as what you would use to clean your fingernails). If you don’t own a scrub brush, you can use your hands, it just might take a little bit longer!
- Rinse off all of the soap and repeat this process until the stains have subsided!
- Please note, it may take time for the stains to disappear pending the amount of juice and pigmentation! It is never permanent.
How to Remove Cherry Stains from Clothing
The hardest part about harvesting cherries is avoiding getting stains on your clothing. However, it is surprisingly simple to remove these stains if you can catch them early enough! There are varying methods to removing the stains from clothes, but the most effective methods are:
- If you’ve caught the stain as it happened (or within a minute or two), you have the best chance of removing the stain. You’ll need to remove the piece of clothing, flip it inside out, and hold the stain (inside out) under cold water. The direction of the fabric will help push the stain out while the cold water helps the stain avoid setting into the fabric. Feel free to add in some laundry detergent for any part of the stain that has started to set in.
- If the stain has fully set into the fabric, you’ll have to do a little extra work. First, try the above method to remove as much of the stain as you can. When you’ve done that, let the fabric dry (or dry it with a hairdryer) until it’s just damp to the touch. Saturate the stained area with a natural acid such as lemon juice or white distilled vinegar. The acid will help break up the stain. Let it sit for a few minutes and then lightly scrub the area in small round circles and rinse!
- After both of these methods, if the stain persists a bit, throw in the wash immediately and the machine should do the rest of the work for you!
Guide to Cherries
We hope this guide to cherries has answered all of your burning questions about cherry season in BC. Remember, before you embark on your harvesting cherries adventure, there are a few tips for picking cherries that you should keep in mind! Always go cherry picking during the time of year that cherries are in season (May-July), keep the stem on the cherries if you’re not planning to use them right away, and skip the stem if you are looking to make a pie or some homemade jam immediately after picking!
Whereas this guide to cherries was created to make your cherry-picking journey easier, the best way to choose cherries is by tasting them and deciding which types you enjoy the most! Remember, the larger and darker the cherry, the sweeter and juicier it will be. However, if they’re too juicy and you get some stains on your clothes, just throw some lemon juice on it and the pigmentation will scrub right out!
And….before I sign off…a photo of me from way back when. I hope you concur that cherry season in BC and WA is a favourite time. This guide to cherries will give you tips for picking cherries and the best way to choose cherries. Before you head out to the local orchard, read up on how to pick cherries for a bountiful harvest.
Enjoy your cherry picking!