Summer is one long produce party, and it all starts in June with the arrival of local cherries. From local farmers markets to just about every grocery store near you, there are mountains of cherries wherever you look. Washington is no stranger to the sweet cherry; we still hold the title for top producer in the nation. Many of Metropolitan Market’s cherries come from third and fourth generation farmers at Chelan Fresh, in North Central Washington, or from Pence Orchards near Yakima. Let’s take a deep dive into these juicy gems.
Time for a Pit Stop
Here’s a fun fact to blow your mind: All cherry pits are roughly the same size, no matter how large the fruit is. So when it comes to choosing cherries, bigger is better. Or at least, it’s more fruit per bite. Cherries are measured in “rows;” the smaller the row number, the bigger the cherry. Where did this come from? The farms! Picture packing just-picked cherries in a box, lining the edge with a row of cherries. How many fit? The bigger cherries take up more space, so an “8-row” cherry would be much larger than a “14-row” cherry.
Say the word cherry and this is the fruit that comes to mind; red, classic, and if you’re not careful, will stain everything in your kitchen (it’s okay, they’re so tasty that we’re never mad about it). Out of all the cherries of the season, these are your Fourth of July, backyard barbecue, ready to be pitted and baked…pie cherries. The whole crew’s ready and accounted for: there’s the Lapin cherry, the Van cherry, Sweetheart cherry, Cowiche cherry, Staccato cherry…and we can’t forget the tried and true Bing cherry.
It’s not summer in the Pacific Northwest without devouring at least one pint of these classic red-and-yellow cherries. This quintessential cherry was developed at Washington State University back in the 1950’s. A cross between a Bing and a Van, it was named after (can you guess? That’s right!) Mount Rainier. Packed with juice, these cherries have a light flesh, and a sweet, almost peach-like flavor. Part of what makes them so special is how fragile they are. They require delicate handling or else their thin skin could bruise or split. Fun Fact: July 11th is National Rainier Cherry Day!
Woah, woah now – there’s a new cherry on the block! And it talks a big game. Grown near the shores of the Colombia River towards Eastern Washington, you can recognize this cherry’s unique, beautiful blush color. According to a study performed by WSU’s Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center, an Orondo Ruby cherry has more sugar and acid than a Rainier, rendering it the sweetest cherry of them all. It also has firmer skin, fewer blemishes, and less splits and cracks than other cherries.
Sometimes referred to as Early Robin Rainiers, these cherries are closely related to the famous yellow-and-blush toned berries we’re already familiar with, and just as sweet. They come a little earlier in cherry season, so keep an eye out for them!
Whether you’re taking your cherries on a picnic or making a delightful cherry cobbler, we want to see! Tag us @metmarket for a chance to be featured on our feed.