YAKIMA, Wash., May 28, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- A highly anticipated sign of summer, this season's crop of Northwest sweet cherries will begin shipping from orchards the last week of May, making them a great addition to early summer picnics, parties and barbeques. Superior growing conditions during a mild and dry winter along with warm days and cool nights this spring, came together to turn out an early crop while showcasing the best cherry characteristics – their large fruit size and extraordinarily sweet flavor.
"This is the earliest start of cherry season in almost a decade," said James Michael, the vice president of marketing - North America for the Northwest Cherry Growers, a growers' organization representing Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Utah, which together produce three-quarters of the nation's entire sweet cherry crop. "Harvest began on May 23, a good nine days ahead of past seasons, and reports from the orchards indicate that this strong crop of nearly 20 million boxes will wind down in two short months in late July. A few of our growers will still pick cherries into early August as well."
Sweet cherries grown in the Northwest benefit from the regions' distinct microclimates and rich volcanic soils, which produce cherries with an exceptional flavor profile and the perfect amount of sweetness all summer long. The growing regions are spread over 400 miles with variations in latitudes among the five states creating different peaks of season, meaning all season long the Northwest cherries consumers find in stores are never more than a few days from the tree. With the early start and quick pace of the 2015 season, shoppers should look for the highly seasonal American-grown superfruits earlier in the summer before they are gone.
The Northwest is known for producing a number of regional varieties including Bing cherries, the most popular and the standard to which other varieties are compared, and the extraordinarily sweet Rainiers, born at Washington State University in 1952 and celebrated each year on July 11 for National Rainier Cherry Day. "Since Rainiers tend to ripen toward the first half of the season, we might find ourselves celebrating the last shipment on the unofficial holiday because of this early season," Michael quipped. Other varieties include the increasingly popular Skeenas, bright red Sweethearts, significantly large Tietons, and early-ripening Chelans and late-season Lapins.
To choose the best fruit for upcoming picnics, consumers should look for cherries with firm, shiny and smooth skins. In general, the darker the cherry, the sweeter – and with the most common varieties, this is a sign of ripeness. The stems should also be green and flexible; with storage they will turn brown and stiff. For a future snack or sweet or savory recipe, cherries should be refrigerated in a tightly sealed bag or container and will keep approximately two weeks.
For more information on sweet Northwest Cherries, seasonal and preservation recipes, health information and more, visit www.nwcherries.com.
About Northwest Cherries and Washington State Fruit Commission
Washington State Fruit Commission is a growers' organization funded by fruit assessments to increase awareness and consumption of regional stone fruits. The organization is dedicated to the promotion, education, market development, and research of soft fruits from Northwest orchards. It began in 1947 and has since grown to include five states – Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Montana. For more information, visit www.nwcherries.com or www.wastatefruit.com.
SOURCE Northwest Cherries