Sweet Cherry

I’ve been on a diet for two weeks now, and all I’ve lost is 14 days!

At last, help is here, the sweet cherry, that short but the oh-so-sweet season has arrived.
Northwest cherry season begins in mid-June and is completed in Mid-August.

There’s something truly special about cherries from the Northwest. They are bigger, plumper, juicer, and sweeter. It’s no coincidence that Northwest cherries are the best cherries in the world.

The microclimatic sensitive fruit thrives on the ideal mix of warm sunny days, cool crisp nights, and nutrient-rich soil plentiful in the Northwest cherry-growing regions.

Here, cherries are grown against hillsides in the shadows of the mountains and in the valleys of desert terrain, irrigated with fresh mountain water.

It amazingly takes a tree ten years to reach full production. Many factors affect production. Mostly weather. Rain at harvest is the nightmare of growers, shippers, retailers, and consumers. Rain at the wrong time can split the delicate fruit. Nearly mature cherries will absorb the water and literally POP open.

When the rain does come, growers hurry to turn on the large overhead orchard fans to blow the water off the fruit before it can be absorbed. Many growers even hire helicopters to hover over their trees. Modern cherry growing in the Northwest began in 1847; when Henderson Lewelling transported nursery stock by ox cart from Iowa to Western Oregon and established orchards.

The Lambert is a dark red with a heart shape with a slightly smaller cherry than the Bing, with a sweet, rich flavor. The Lambert cherry started as a cross on the same farm.

The Bing variety was developed on the Lewelling farm in 1875 from seeds and was named for one of his Chinese workmen. The Bing cherry has mahogany skin, and the flesh has a large, firm texture and a sweet, rich flavor.

The Rainier originated from the crossing of the Bing and the Van cherries; by Dr. Harold W. Fogle at the Washington State University Research Station in Prosser, Wa. The Rainier cherry is golden with pink/red blush, a texture with clear-colored flesh, and a delicate flavor that is very sweet and expensive. A Northwest specialty. It is an elite cherry among cherries. It is sweeter, juicier, plumper, and absolutely the most irresistible
Intense sweetness is really the trademark of the Rainier. The taste is second to none.

Juicier than most sweet cherries, the Rainer variety has a delicate, buttery textured clear flesh encased in a thin, delicate skin. While it bruises more easily, the Rainer is generally larger and firmer than most dark sweet cherries.

It is a common misconception that the Rainier cherry is a relative of the Royal Anne (also known as Napoleon) variety, an old-time light, sweet cherry now used almost exclusively in maraschino cherry processing. It was first released to the Northwest cherry industry in 1960.

Twenty-one cherries are 90 calories! Together these three varieties now account for more than 95 percent of the Northwest cherry production.

In yogurt or ice cream used for baking or in jam, always select plump, shiny, well-colored fruit with green stems and refrigerate until consumed.

Freezing cherries requires only washing them and placing them in a freezer bag. Then, put them in the freezer, where they can be stored for 6-12 months. Remove cherries from the freezer 30 minutes prior to use.

To can cherries, wash and stem all cherries, pit them if you so desire—pack cherries into clean, sterilized jars. Pour a sugar syrup over fruit (one cup sugar to three cups water heated until sugar is dissolved). Apply the proper lid. Process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes for pints and 20 for quarts. Processing time may vary with altitude.

To use your dehydrator, wash and stem cherries. Cut in half and remove pits. Place the fruit skin side down or on dryer trays. The fruit will be leathery and stick when dried sufficiently. Store in plastic bags in a cool, dry area. To plump back up, add cherries to a small saucepan. Cover with water stock or liqueur. Bring to a boil, cover, then remove the pan from heat. Allow standing for 20 minutes or until fruit is plumped.

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