Cherries are one of the few fruit varieties that have a short season. This is because of the specific climatic conditions needed to grow world-class cherries and their extremely short shelf life once harvested. It is critical that cherries are picked, processed, and delivered to market while they are still sweet. As soon as they are harvested, they begin to convert sugars into starch. This conversion can be slowed with refrigeration but even then the sweetness of cherries diminishes over time.
The first week of May is when we will begin seeing cherries at farmers markets. A few weeks later, local farms will start harvesting in northern California. This usually begins in Bakersfield, and then moves north to Lodi, and finally Modesto. This year’s weather conditions have been a blessing for our area cherry farmers. The rain has helped replenish water supplies and has kept trees well-watered through the drought. The temperatures have been mild, and farmers feel that their crops will be better than normal.
Bing is the main variety grown in the state, and ripens throughout May into June. Montmorency tart cherries come into play towards the end of the season. These are great for baking and canning.
Three states supply the majority of cherries in America – California starts the season in April and runs through July, Oregon joins for two months in June and Washington’s season is in August. This year, the large yield in California is impacting price, supply and warehouse space across the country.