Sweet B.C. cherries are in! Each year we cherry-pick the best of B.C., even going as far as sending our produce teams to the Okanagan to meet our growers and understand where the cherries are coming from and how they are grown. Here are six things we’ve learned on those trips.
Garden variety? Although sold as “red cherries” in our markets, we actually sell as many as nine different varieties of red cherries throughout the B.C. cherry season. You’ll notice that some are bright red like Santina and Staccato, while others are deep red to black in colour like Vans, Bings and Skeenas. Since each variety is only available for such a short time throughout the summer, we simply call them red cherries.
Sweet tooth. Yellow cherries are generally sweeter than red cherries, but they are more delicate. To avoid bruising make sure you transport them gently. If you’re headed on a picnic or hike you might want to pack red cherries instead.
Money doesn’t grow on trees. Once planted, it can take up to six years for a cherry tree to reach peak production. This is just one reason our growers are heavily invested in maintaining the health of their orchards.
The cherry trail. The first B.C. cherries ripen in Osoyoos, just north of the American border. Cherries, like most fruit, ripen according to variety, weather and elevation. So the cherry trail moves simultaneously north up through Oliver, Penticton and Kelowna as well as up the sides of the Okanagan valley to higher elevations throughout the summer. Our supply partner Jason, who also manages Chongo’s Market, spends every Monday and Tuesday in B.C. following the cherry trail, visiting orchards and buying the best cherries at their peak. Those cherries are on the truck and in our markets the next day.
Two-bite cherries. Cherries are sized by how many fit into a row in a standard-sized box. The bigger the cherries, the fewer will fit into a row. So a 12-row cherry is much smaller than a 9-row cherry. Since all cherry pits are around the same size, larger cherries have a better fruit-to-pit ratio which means more bang for your buck! We carry 8-row cherries whenever possible – the largest cherries you can find.
Growing pains. It’s hard to grow large cherries. The more fruit that trees have to nurture and grow, the smaller and less tasty each cherry will be. So our growers prune their trees because with fewer cherries for each tree to take care of, the cherries can grow to incredible sizes and flavours. It’s expensive to do – they have to pay for the labour and in the end they’ll have fewer cherries to sell. Not to mention the increased risk of rain damage that comes with keeping cherries on the trees longer. But we’re sure grateful for our growers’ passion and dedication, and we think after tasting our B.C. cherries that you will be too.