Cherry 101

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Learn everything you need to know about cherries, including cherry varieties, storing tips, and recipe ideas! Cherry 101!

A box of rainier cherries.
Rainier cherries


Cherries are a summertime staple for us. A large and lofty bowl of sweet, red cherries on the counter signifies summer is in full swing.

Every year, when the store shelves are lined with big bags of deep red cherries, I’m determined to cook, bake, and snack on them before they disappear again. Unlike citrus fruits, cherries are only around for a limited time!

Here’s everything you need to know to make the most out of cherry season. Cherry 101!

Cherry Varieties:

There are two main types of cherries, sweet and sour.

Sweet Cherries:

Sweet cherries are perfect for snacking! With more than 800 varieties, they range in color, size, and sweetness level.

  • Rainier cherries – This highly sought-after cherry is a cross-breed between a Bing and Van cherry. It has a thin yellowish-pink skin with a juicy, creamy yellow flesh. Their intensely sweet center is worth the additional cost per pound. Bonus: you can snack on these delicious cherries without staining your shirt or fingers!
  • Bing cherries – The most popular variety of sweet cherries, the Bing cherry is a deep, crimson red with a thick skin and a firm center. They’re juicy and sweet with a hint of acidity. Trees produce high yields and the fruits are easily transported without bruising, which makes them a popular choice for grocery stores.
  • Maraschino cherries – Maraschino cherries are preserved, sweetened, and artificially colored, then used to top milkshakes, ice cream sundaes, and cocktails. They’re typically made from Royal Ann, Rainier, or Gold varieties.
A bowl of rainier and sweet dark cherries.

Sour Cherries:

Not great for snacking and highly perishable, sour cherries are much harder to find. They have less natural sugar, thus making them extremely tart.

These bright and acidic cherries are best for pies, jams, jellies, and preserves. Sour cherries are divided into two categories, amarelle and morello.

  • Amarelle cherries – This type of sour cherry has a yellow flesh and clear juice. The skin ranges from pale yellow to bright red.
  • Morello cherries – This type of sour cherry has a red flesh with red juice.

How to pick cherries:

Cherries are only in season for a short window, so it’s essential to choose the best ones you can! Here are a few things to look for when buying cherries from your local grocery store.

  • Avoid soft, bruised, wrinkled, or mushy cherries.
  • Cherries should look plump and shiny, but feel firm and dense.
  • The color depends on the variety, but it should be vibrant and glossy. If it’s a red cherry, look for deep saturation and a dark hue.
  • Look for bright green and flexible stems.
Close up photo of rainier cherries.
Rainier cherries

How to store cherries:

It’s important to store cherries properly to keep them fresh!

  • Store cherries in the refrigerator to preserve their sweet taste and firm texture.
  • If the cherries have stems, leave them on. This helps them stay fresh longer.
  • Avoid rinsing cherries ahead of time. This can cause them to spoil faster. Instead, rinse your cherries right before you plan to eat them.
  • When you do rinse them, be sure to do it under cold water. Heat causes them to spoil faster.

Freezing cherries:

I buy a box of cherries every summer and freeze them to enjoy all winter long.

  1. Wash the cherries in cold water bath with white vinegar (about 4:1 ratio water to vinegar).
  2. Rinse with clean cold water and remove the steams.
  3. Using a cherry pitter, pit the cherries. Alternatively, you can halve the cherries and remove the pits. This ensures all the pits are removed.
  4. Place the pitted cherries on a baking sheet. Freeze until solid and transfer into freezer bags and freeze for up to 3 months.
Side by side image of using cherry pitter and frozen cherries on a baking sheet.


When using a cherry pitter, be meticulous to check the pit actually comes out.

Sometimes, pits stay inside and it’s not pleasant (if not dangerous) to accidentally bite into a cherry pit!!

How to use cherries:

Sweet Cherries:

Sweet cherries are called “nature’s candy” for a reason! Their naturally high sugar content is great for snacking, fruit salads, and black forest cake!

Try one of these simple ideas:

  • Cherry cake – Gently press pitted sweet cherries into cake batter and bake! Serve with homemade whipped cream.
  • Cherry salsa – Chop up sweet pitted cherries and toss with lime juice or balsamic vinegar, minced onion, and jalapeno. Scoop onto grilled pork chops!
  • Chocolate-covered cherries – Cover maraschino cherries in a powdered sugar dough then dip in melted chocolate.

Sour Cherries:

Sour cherries are hard to find due to their short harvesting period. You can find them during June and sometimes July, but after that, you can’t find them fresh. Try the canned fruit or freezer aisle. Sometimes stores carry canned red tart cherries in water.

Sour cherries are more acidic than sweet cherries. It gives them a bright, tart flavor that intensifies as it bakes. They’re perfect for jams, pies, crumbles, and crisps!

A bowl of dark sweet cherries.
Bing cherries

Nutritional Benefits:

Cherries are low in calories, high in fiber, and jam-packed with health benefits! They’re full of disease-fighting antioxidants and plant compounds.

One cup of sweet, pitted cherries yields:

  • Calories – 95
  • Protein – 2 grams
  • Fat – 0.3 grams
  • Carbs – 25 grams
  • Fiber – 3 grams
  • Sugars – 19.2 grams
  • Calcium – 20 mg
  • Magnesium – 17 mg
  • Potassium – 333 mg
  • Vitamin C – 10.5 mg
A small plate of maraschino cherries.

Cherry Recipe Ideas:

It’s no secret I love to bake with cherries! Try one of these easy, no-fail cherry recipes the next time you’re craving something sweet.

Hi, I’m Shinee!

Welcome! I’m so happy you’re here! I believe anyone can cook restaurant-quality food at home! And my goal is to help you to become a confident cook with my easy-to-follow recipes with lots of tips and step-by-step photos.

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