One way to ensure you’re transitioning from dreamy spring to full-blown summer are the beautifully blossoming cherry trees with juicy fruits that are waiting to be picked. Thanks to their sweet juiciness, cherries always have been and will inevitably be linked to summer’s warmer temperatures and golden afternoons.
What Are the Differences Between Cherry Trees?
There are more than a thousand types of cherries available out there and they’re scattered in a myriad of countries across the world. However they are mainly divided into two well-known categories: sweet cherries and tart cherries. Each one of these categories has distinguishing features that ultimately set the fruits apart, makes them more recognizable and gives them different final uses.
All cherry trees do have a solid common foundation in terms of planting requirements and they start to differentiate as we look at their more particular features. Having said this, sweet cherries tend to grow in mild-temperature areas with low humidity, while tart cherries typically need cooler climates.
Of the two, tart cherry trees are more resilient in front of diseases, the cold and poorer soils. Sweet cherry trees are higher maintenance, but you may get a better deal if you choose more modern cherry types of trees, unlike the more old-fashioned Bing type, for example, which tends to be more pretentious.
When Is the Best Time to Pick Cherries?
If you’re looking into planting your own cherry trees and embarking on this exciting agricultural adventure, it’s only natural to want to know when the best time to pick cherries is. There is no cookie-cutter recipe when it comes to cherry picking, this process can and will be impacted by the variety of cherry tree you choose, the temperature and weather.
However before getting to know when to pick cherries and how to pick cherries from your very own trees, it’s essential to remember certain things. With proper maintenance and care, sweet cherry trees will start yielding fruit in 4-7 years since they were planted, while sour cherry trees will be a bit more precocious, with a 3-5 years waiting period.
Knowing when to harvest cherries is a delicate issue, especially since these delicious antioxidant fruits don’t ripen anymore after they’ve been picked, so you need to be spot-on with your decision to harvest them. Once again, there are important distinctions between sweet cherry trees and sour cherry trees when it comes to picking the fruits.
Sour cherries will come right off from their stem when you start picking them, while sweet cherries will need to pass the test of tasting. During the last days of the ripening process, the sugar levels in these fruits grow drastically, so you’ll be able to tell just by tasting them every other day.
Another distinction to be made comes down to the color of cherries. When it comes to sweet cherries, you should expect them to turn a dark red when they are ripe and their stems to maintain a bright green color. It can be confusing sometimes, especially since different cherry varieties have different colors. For example, Rainier cherries will turn a yellow-red color even when they’re ripe. In this case, the ultimate taste is the firmness of the cherries and their taste.
When it comes to pinpointing the best time to pick cherries, depending on where you are located geographically, the weather and the variety of cherry tree you’ve chosen, the cherry picking season only lasts for about three weeks, somewhere between late June and early or even late July.
If you find yourself during that time frame and your cherries look and taste as if they’re almost reaching their maximum ripe levels, yet rain is imminent, be sure to pick them before showers happen, since rain has the ability to make the cherries split during this important phase of their development. However if there are no such pressing weather conditions, be sure to let your fruits ripe, since you’ll ultimately consume them in the exact stage they were in when you picked them.
Each variety of cherry trees will yield different quantities of fruit. However one mature standard-sized cherry tree will generate quite a lot of fruit, leaving you with enough produce to eat both raw and include in desserts for months to come.
When talking about sweet cherry trees, you can expect the dwarf varieties to yield somewhere around 8-10 gallons of fruit per harvesting. The semi-dwarf variety will yield around 10-15 gallons of delicious fruit each year, while the standard variety will yield between 15-20 gallons annually.
When it comes to sour cherry trees, you can expect to get around 3-5 gallons of fruit from the dwarf varieties, while the semi-dwarf will yield around 12-18 gallons of cherries.
How Do You Pick Cherries?
It’s best to pick cherries with their stems still attached, if you’re not planning to use the cherries right away. However it’s advisable that you don’t tear off the woody fruit spur, as it’s responsible for producing fruit every other year.
On the other hand, if you’re planning to cook them right away or can them, you can leave the stems behind, on the tree.
How Do You Store Your Freshly Picked Cherries?
Depending on what you’re planning to do with your freshly picked cherries, there are several ways in which you can store them, so you can enjoy their benefits for a longer time.
If you plan to consume them right away, while they’re still fresh and oozing aroma, you need to know that you can only let them outside, at room temperature, for one day or two, at the most. Cherries, regardless of their variety, are very perishable and will quickly lose all their qualities if you leave them un-refrigerated for more than one day.
The alternative to this is to refrigerate them as soon as you picked them. You can do this by storing them in a plastic bag and putting them away in your refrigerator. This way, they can last longer and you can still consume them while they’re juicy and delicious for around 4-10 days, depending on the cherry type, refrigeration temperature and conditions.
If you plan on using your cherries long after you’ve picked them, to bake them in a tart for Christmas, for example, it’s recommended that you freeze them. When freezing them, in a bag, you can be sure you’ll be able to easily enjoy them within 10-12 months since you’ve put them away. Freezing is completely safe and most recommended for cherries, since it doesn’t take away much from their natural nourishing nutrients.
Another way to store cherries for months at a time is to dry them up, either naturally, which takes a lot longer, or the oven way, where you put them inside at 150 degrees F for about 10-12 hours. As soon as they’re done and if they’ve dried properly, you can put them away in jars that you can keep away from direct sunlight.
What Benefits Do You Have by Picking Cherries at the Right Time?
Lastly, if you pick them when they are at their most ripe point and store them properly, you can truly take advantage of all their wonderful health benefits. Cherries are fruits that are naturally high in antioxidants, which make them an impressive aid in the fight against the body’s cellular aging process. Antioxidants will fight against the oxidative process and will keep your immune system healthy, which in turn may help you prevent several diseases from developing.
Cherries also have magnificent anti-inflammatory properties that come in handy especially to those suffering from gout and other arthritis-related conditions. A regular intake of cherries will often tone down painful gout attacks and offer the patient much sought-after relief from suffering.
When juiced, sour cherries will also be very effective for professional athletes or people who are suffering from training-related muscle pain and fatigue. Organic cherry juice will often help relieve muscles from inevitable fitness-related soreness.
Additionally, if you have sleep-related issues, in the sense that you either fall asleep with difficulty or have troubles maintaining regularity in your sleep-wake cycle, you can rejoice in finding out cherries can be efficient in sorting out this issue. Melatonin is a hormone contained by cherries that will level out your sleep patterns and that will also level out your skin color, removing blemishes and other discoloration.
Lastly, if you pick cherries when they are at their ripest form and you suffer from diabetes or have this disease running in your family, you can rest assured these fruits will not harm you, since they have among the lowest glycemic index among all the antioxidant fruits. So if you’re looking to keep your blood sugar levels under control or steer clear from threatening diabetes, while still being able to enjoy summer’s delicious juicy fruit, be sure to harvest cherries when their time is due and store them properly so you can return to them months on end. If you’re looking to regularly introduce these into your diet and suffer from diabetes, it’s best to consult with your physician as well, just to be on the safe side and discover the dosage that works for you.
All in all, it’s important to remember that there are many varieties of cherry trees out there and they each have their own specifications. However all cherries have a small three-to-four week window that you can pick them in and that usually occurs from late June to late July. By not rushing the process and taking into consideration both the color and taste of your cherries, chances are you’ll pick them when they are their best and you’ll be able to enjoy everything they have to offer.