Tips for Buying, Storing, Pitting and Using Cherries

How to Buy, Store, Pit, and Use Juicy Cherries

SmitBruins / Twenty20

Fresh, local cherries are the shining jewels of late spring and summer fruit. Bright, plump, fresh cherries offer a lot of culinary delight—from eating them out of the bag on the way home from the market to putting up a batch of brandied cherries to enjoy when fresh cherries aren't filling up farm stands. It's all covered here.

Learn what to look for at the market, different varieties, and find ways to use your haul below.

When Are Cherries In Season?

Sweet cherries, including the popular Bing and Rainier varieties, are available from May to August.

Sour cherries have a much shorter season, and can be found for a week or two, usually during the middle of June in warmer areas and as late as July and August in colder regions.

What to Look for in Cherries

If you possibly can, taste cherries before you buy them. Sweetness varies farm to farm (tree to tree, really) and week to week. Always look for shiny, plump cherries with fresh green stems and dark coloring for their variety. For specific buying tips see Cherry Varieties.

The Best Way to Store Cherries

Keep cherries, unwashed and stems attached, in a paper bag, loosely-covered container, or loosely closed plastic bag in the refrigerator until you're ready to use them. 

If you want to keep cherries around for longer than a few days, pit and freeze them—no need to defrost cherries before adding them to baked goods.

How to Pit Cherries

Rinse cherries with cool water right before using or eating them. To pit cherries, pluck off the stem and insert the end of a medium-large paper clip into the stem-hole. Snag the pit and scoop it out. Sour cherries are the easiest to pit, but with a deft hand and just a little digging and twisting, the paperclip method is perfectly effective for sweet cherries, too.

See this Step-By-Step Guide to Pitting Cherries. Use or freeze cherries immediately after pitting. 

Simple Cherry Recipes

I'd never suggest that a bowl of fresh cherries wasn't enough all on its own, but sometimes even this cherry-lover likes to mix things up. 

Cherry Drink Recipes

The sweet but not cloying flavor of cherries can be wonderfully refreshing in drinks and cocktails. A few favorites:

More Reason to Eat Cherries

Sour cherries are full of vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber, manganese, and copper.

Sweet cherries contain vitamin C, anthocyanin antioxidants, and melatonin, an antioxidant that fights insomnia and jet lag.