Will Cherries Ripen After Picking? A Beginners Guide
Once a cherry is separated from a tree, the ripening process stops. However, what if we told you there are some trade secrets to unlocking further ripening potential?
In this article, we will dive deep into the captivating world of cherries and reveal the tips and tricks that can extend their journey to perfect ripeness.
So, if you’re ready, grab a coffee and put your learning hat on because we will take you on a journey.
The Cherry Ripening Process – What You Need to Know
To truly understand how cherries ripen, we must start with the basics.
Climacteric Vs. Non-Climacteric Fruits
When it comes to fruit ripening, there are two types of fruits you need to be aware of:
- climacteric and
- non-climacteric fruits.
On the other hand, non-climacteric fruits, like cherries, don’t produce ethylene.
That means they must be fully ripe before being picked from the tree. Understanding this is important to ensure you get the most out of your cherries!
Cherry Ripening – The Process
The ripening process for cherries begins as they grow on the tree in spring, with sun exposure critical for their development.
As the cherries mature, they gradually transition from a green, sour stage to a sweeter, riper, and more vibrant color. Ripening cherries will naturally become juicier and more flavorful as they receive more sun exposure.
Since cherries are non-climacteric fruits, picking them when fully ripened on the tree is essential. Once picked, fresh cherries will not continue to ripen or become sweeter.
They may even deteriorate if left at room temperature for too long. If you want to enjoy the perfectly ripe fruit, be mindful of their growing stages and focus on picking them when they’ve reached their peak of ripeness.
Cherries should be stored between 30-32 °F/-1-0 °C with high humidity levels and refrigerated as soon as possible after harvesting.
How Do You Know if a Cherry is Ripe?
Now that we know you should be choosing cherries at their peak ripeness, the next natural question is…how do you know when a cherry is ripe?
Determining if a cherry is ripe doesn’t have to be complicated.
Here are a few things we look for:
- Color: Most cherries should be fully colored, like deep red or bright red, depending on the type. Sweet cherries can also have a yellowish color with some red. So, check the color based on the kind of cherry you have.
- Size: Ripe cherries are plump and full-grown. But remember that different types of cherries can vary in size, so it’s important to know what kind you’re dealing with.
- Texture: When gently press a cherry between your fingers, it should feel firm but also juicy. If it gives in a little bit when you press it, that’s a good sign that it’s ripe and ready to eat.
- Taste: As cherries ripen, they become sweeter because their sugar content increases. So, when you taste a ripe cherry, it should have a nice balance of sweetness and tartness. Sweet cherries will be even sweeter when fully colored, while sour cherries will still have a tangy taste even when ripe.
Remember these simple indicators when choosing your cherries, and you’ll be able to enjoy them at their best flavor.
Best Time to Harvest Cherries
The best time to harvest cherries is during summer, when they have developed and ripened in the glorious direct sunlight.
Each variety of cherry, like the Early Richmond or Black Cherries, will have unique indicators, so make sure you research to educate yourself about the ripening signs.
There are a couple of methods you can use to harvest cherries:
- Handpicking: Gently pluck the cherries from the tree using your thumb and forefinger. Be careful not to damage the fruit or branches. Handpicking allows for precision and care during harvesting, making it a preferred method for home gardeners.
- Using tools: Consider using specialized tools such as cherry-picking pliers or mechanical harvesters for larger cherry harvests. These tools can make the process more efficient, especially for commercial orchards. However, always handle the cherries with care to avoid bruising or damage.
Common Cherry Varieties and Their Ripening Characteristics
Cherries come in many varieties, each with its own flavor and ripening characteristics.
- Rainier cherries are yellow-red in color and taste really sweet. They usually ripen between June and July, so if you want to enjoy cherries early in the season, go for Rainier cherries.
- Bing cherries are the dark red ones you often see in pictures of cherry picking. They’re big, sweet, and great for eating fresh or baking. Bing cherries usually ripen from mid-June to mid-July.
- Sweet cherries include both the Rainier and Bing varieties mentioned earlier. They ripen earlier in the season, from late May to mid-July.
- Now, sour cherries are more petite and bright red. They’re perfect for making delicious cherry pies! Sour cherries take longer to ripen than sweet ones, with harvest time from late June to early August.
- If you love cooking with cherries, you might like tart cherry varieties like Montmorency. Tart cherries are tangy, adding a unique zing to pies and baked goods. They typically ripen towards the end of the cherry season.
- Lastly, there’s a unique variety called black cherries. These deep purple-red cherries have a rich sweetness from mature fruit on the sweet cherry tree. Black cherries don’t all ripen simultaneously; it depends on when each tree grows.
Proper Handling and Storage
Be gentle when you are handling your cherries. Any bruises or superficial damage will accelerate the oxidation of the flesh and spoil quickly.
We’ll explore the best practices for storing cherries in the next section.
Storing and Keeping Cherries Fresh After Picking
Optimal Storage Conditions
To keep your freshly picked cherries nice and fresh, storing them in a cool and dry place is important. The best spot for them is in your refrigerator. They like it between 32°F to 35°F (0°C to 2°C). You can put them in a resealable plastic bag or a container with a lid to protect them.
While cherries, in their own right, do not release large amounts of ethylene gas as they ripen, they can still be affected by other fruits that emit significant amounts of ethylene.
So, keeping your ripe cherries away from fruits like apples, avocados, ripe bananas, and pears that produce that gas is a good idea.
But if you have some not-so-ripe cherries and you want them to ripen faster, you can put one of those fruits together with the cherries in a closed brown paper bag.
Methods to Extend Freshness
Here are additional tips to help keep your cherries fresh:
- Do not wash cherries before storing: The moisture left on the cherries after washing can encourage mold growth and spoilage. Just wash them right before you’re ready to eat.
- Sort and remove damaged fruit: Before putting the cherries in the fridge, check for any damaged or rotten ones and remove them so they don’t affect the other good ones.
- Keep the stems on. Keeping them on is better because they protect the fruit and help it stay fresh longer.
- Use absorbent materials: To prevent excess moisture, line the bottom of your storage container with a paper towel or something absorbent.
Using Cherries in Recipes: Ideas & Inspiration
Ripe Sweet Cherries:
Ripe sweet cherries are perfect for eating fresh or incorporating them into dessert recipes such as cobblers, pies, and clafoutis. Their natural sweetness complements the other ingredients, making your dish taste even better.
Ripe Sour Cherries:
Ripe sour cherries are better suited for canning or making jams, jellies, and other preserves. Their tartness balances out with sweetness from added sugar and pectin. These cherries also freeze well, so you can store them and use them in recipes throughout the year.
Unripe cherries, both sweet and sour, have their own place in the culinary world. They may not be as sweet or tart as their ripe counterparts but can still provide texture and flavor to certain dishes.
- Unripe sweet cherries can be cooked with sugar to create a sweet and tangy sauce for savory dishes like poultry or pork.
- Unripe sour cherries can be pickled or used as a garnish in salads or cocktails.
Canning and Freezing Cherries:
Both ripe and unripe cherries can be used for canning and freezing, depending on your desired outcome.
- Ripe cherries work better for canning due to their more desirable flavor and texture.
- Unripe cherries can be turned into frozen cherries and used later in recipes with a firmer texture and reduced sweetness.
Frequently Asked Questions: Will Cherries Ripen After Picking
How can I tell if cherries are ready to be picked?
When cherries are ready to be picked, they will be about the size of a quarter and have a deep, vibrant color. Gently squeeze the cherries to gauge their firmness. Ripe cherries will have a slight give but won’t be too soft. Remember that different cherry fruit varieties can vary in color, so it’s essential to know the specific color your cherries should be when ripe.
What methods can be used to ripen cherries after picking?
Unfortunately, cherries do not continue to ripen after they’ve been picked from the tree. Unlike other fruits, such as bananas or tomatoes, cherries won’t ripen or become sweeter once harvested. It’s essential to pick cherries when they are ripe and at their best flavor.
Do cherries continue ripening at room temperature?
No, cherries do not continue to ripen at room temperature after they have been picked. To ensure optimal taste and quality, it is necessary to store your cherries properly. Keeping them in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator will help maintain their freshness for longer.
Can unripe cherries be safely consumed?
Unripe green cherries can be safely consumed but might not offer the best taste. They are generally more sour and bitter due to lower natural sugar content than their ripe counterparts. However, they are still safe to eat and can be used in various recipes, such as jams, jellies, or baked goods, that call for a tart flavor.
What can be done with unripe cherries?
Unripe cherries can be used in various culinary applications, such as making preserves, pie fillings, or sauces. The tartness of unripe cherries can be an advantage in these cases, as it contrasts with sweet dishes. You can also experiment with pickling unripe cherries, creating a unique treat to enjoy on your own or as an accompaniment to cheese and charcuterie boards.
How does cherry ripening compare to other fruits like peaches and blueberries?
Cherry ripening is different from fruits like peaches and blueberries because cherries, once picked, do not continue to ripen. On the other hand, peaches and blueberries can continue to ripen after harvest, softening and becoming sweeter over time. Therefore, when picking cherries, it’s essential to ensure they are ripe and at peak flavor before harvesting them. With peaches and blueberries, you have more flexibility in harvesting them slightly underripe and allowing them to ripen at home.
- Ethylene. (2023, July 28). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethylene
- Drupe. (2023, June 9). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drupe