Ah, cherry season! It's a short, yet deliciously sweet blip on the calendar, and one I look forward to every summer. I could barely contain my excitement when these sweet, red jewels began to trickle in to the farmers market and grocery stores here in New York.
The window for cherry season is short! Like, just around one month short. Six weeks if you're lucky. Timing varies around the country, with the west coast receiving their bounty as early as May. Here in New York fresh cherries usually make their appearance during July.
You're probably most familiar with Bing cherries. They range in color from bright to deep red, with semi-firm flesh and a rich, sweet to tangy flavor. They're also the most produced type of sweet cherries in the U.S.
Rainier cherries are another common variety you see at the market, perhaps with a higher price tag. These cherries have a distinctive reddish-yellow skin with tender, creamy flesh and a sweeter flavor than other cherries. Rainier cherries are probably most perfect eaten as is. They're a little too sweet for pie baking, although they do make a nice jam.
Cherries are high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. They can be eaten raw, preserved in brandy, baked in a clafoutis or pie, or pitted and juiced. They're easy to prepare...just wash them off, pop in your mouth, spit out the pit, and enjoy!
What's your favorite way to take advantage of cherry season?
Updated from a post originally published May 2008.
(Image credits: Kelli Dunn; Emily Ho)