Sweet Cherries from Chile
Cherries have one big flaw: they have a very short season, not much more than two weeks in most places.
Although cherries originated in the Middle East and have been cultivated for centuries in Europe and the Orient, the biggest producer, consumer, and exporter of cherries is the United States. Most sweet cherries are grown on the West Coast; Washington State is the biggest producer. Except for local crops, which aren't shipped at all, the cherries you'll see on the market have been shipped from California, Oregon, and Washington State, with Idaho, British Columbia, and Chile contributing to the supply.
Cherries from Chile
Bing cherries will be shipped from late November until early/mid-January. In mid-December, the Van cherries will be winding down as the Lapins start coming in.
Cherries are grown in the central valley from Santiago, south to Bio Bio.
About 90% of sweet cherry imports to the U.S. come from Chile.
Chile ships over 700,000 metric tons of sweet cherries each year.
Update - 2006
During the 2005-06 season, 2.15 million cases of cherries were shipped to the U.S., up to 82 percent from the previous season. In total 4.41 million cases were shipped from Chile around the world during the 2005-06 season. This season they expect that total to fall between 5 and 6 million cases.
Selecting and Storing
What you see is what you get. Cherries won't ripen or improve in flavor after they're picked. They must be picked ripe, and then they'll last only a couple of days, so harvesting time is critical. A ripe cherry is heavier in the hand, meatier, sweeter, and juicier than an immature cherry. Picked too soon, cherries are pale and tasteless; too ripe, they're soft and watery. The best time to pick seems to be right before the birds start eating them - birds have an uncanny instinct for ripe cherries.
Choose firm, large, bright-colored fruit. Royal Annes should be bright colored and unblemished; Bings should be as firm and dark as possible. Pale red Bings are immature and won't be especially sweet. Also look at the stems: if the cherries have green stems, they're fresh; if the stem is missing, pass the cherries by - they've been off the tree too long. Never buy cherries if they seem to be very soft, flabby, or sticky on the outside. They should look clean and dry. When cherries go bad, they start to loose color, develop a brownish color, and leak. Once a cherry starts leaking, the fermentation process will quickly make the whole box go bad.
Cherries provide vitamin C and fiber.
Happy Holidays and Enjoy
Bette's Cherry Cheesecake
Cherry Dessert Cake
Other recipes from Produce Pete.