May is the time for sweet California cherries at your farmers’ market. There will be several varieties to choose from as the short season progresses – fresh cherries are available from May through June only! Some of the farmers who will have wonderful sweet cherries are Gotelli & Sons, Stockton; Seko Ranch, Brentwood; Resendiz Farms, Hughson; Diaz Farms, Fowler; J&J Ramos Farms, Hughson; and Rodin Farms, Oakdale.
California grows the sweet variety of cherries, rather than the tart, like Washington or Michigan. There are farms as small as only 1 acre of trees and those that are 500 acres or more. The past two to three years have been hard on cherry growers because of the strange weather and because of the spotted wing drosophila. The farmers tell me that this should be an average to good year for cherries.
The farmers’ market will be offering the following sweet varieties of cherries through May and June. Get them while you can!
Bing cherries are the leading commercial sweet cherry. They are firm, juicy, large, and a deep mahogany red when ripe. They have a distinctive heart shape. Bings are intensely sweet, with a vibrant flavor.
Rainier cherries are yellow inside and out, with just a bit of red blush on them, and exceptionally large. They are quite sweet and very firm.
Lambert cherries are large and firm with an even dark red color throughout. They are sweet enough to eat out of hand, but keep a good texture when cooked. They have a nice long season that runs from mid-June to early August.
Burlat cherries are an early variety, arriving to the markets in May, and have a very sweet flavor. It is a large, firm, red meaty fruit of excellent quality.
Brooks cherries are large, uniform, oblate, dark red fruit. Flesh is firm and crisp with variable shades of red and pink. The stone is nearly free.
Van cherries are large, shiny, reddish black sweet cherry similar to Bing but firmer with good flavor. Good fresh, cooked, canned or frozen. An excellent pollinator for other sweet cherries.
California cherries are more than a tasty snack—they’re loaded with healthy vitamins and minerals. Cherries are low in calories, contain no fat, and are high in potassium, vitamin C, B complex, and other vitamins and minerals.
When you bring your cherries home, handle them delicately to avoid bruising. Keep them out of the sunlight to avoid softening and stem damage. Refrigerate as soon as possible in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Enjoy!
Since the season is so short, you may want to freeze whole cherries, or make a batch or two of cherry preserves.
2 pounds pitted cherries (6 cups)
1 3-1/2 ounce package pectin
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon butter
3 cups sugar
Sterilize 3 pint jars, rings, and lids by boiling in water for 5 minutes. Dry. Place cherries in a large, heavy-duty saucepan. Combine pectin with 1/4 cup sugar; stir into cherries; add butter.* Bring to a full boil, stirring constantly over high heat.
Add 3 more cups sugar and return to boil, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat; skim off any foam. Immediately spoon preserves into 3 one-pint sterilized jars. Secure lids; let stand inverted 5 minutes. Turn upright and let cool. You should be able to hear the lids “pop” to show they are sealed. Use within one year.
*What’s the butter for? It helps reduce the amount of foam you skim off after cooking.