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Cherry season is here and then it’s gone. But don’t fret. You can get your favorite Northwest cherries now at the peak of the season and store them for year ’round eating. Just what does it take to get those cherries from the tree to our homes?

Sweet Cherries in hand

This post all about cherries has been sponsored by Northwest Cherry Growers. Opinions and experiences are my own. Unfortunately, the day we had the opportunity to tour the cherry packing line, operations had already shut down for the day. My friend, Eric Patrick (@cherrydude) kindly shared some images for me to use.

Picking Cherries at the Perfect Time

It’s incredibly fascinating to me how the very best cherries make their way all around the world without being completely destroyed by the time they get to their destination. After all, in order to get the very best sweet cherries they can’t be picked before they’re ripe.

Why not? Because once that cherry is picked the sugars stop developing. If you’ve ever eaten an unripened sweet cherry you know what I mean. They’re…lacking.

Fresh Picked Cherries Credit Eric Patrick

Photo Credit: Eric Patrick (@cherrydude)

Prepping Cherries for Travel

Once the cherries are picked the grower and his/her team works to beat the clock and get those cherries to you in the quickest time possible.

First, they make their way into a quick bath to bring the temperature down as quickly as possible. The water is kept low 30s in this step and they move them from orchard to bath as quickly as possible because anything living produces energy to grow, which means it creates its own heat (layman terms here.) Until you bring that temperature down the produce will rapidly deteriorate. If you’ve ever harvested your own produce you know what I mean, right? It all gets a little wilted and limp super fast if you don’t put it in the refrigerator.

Cool the cherries down quickly

Next, it makes its journey to the bag. Any leaves and tree debris get separated out and the cherries go over this fascinating conveyer belt with sharp little knives that separate the clumps, keeping the stems on the individual cherries. Then they get sorted, checked that they have the proper amount of sugars (ripe!), and packaged into bags.

Cherry Sorting Line

Photo Credit: Eric Patrick (@cherrydude)

Cherry Packing Line

Side note: How awesome is this photo that shows the scale of machinery and steps the cherries go through to get the best quality cherry in the best shape to the bag for you to buy at the store?

Did you know that each bag of cherries is a 2-pound bag? They get weighed at the end of the packing line and there is a small conveyor belt above the main belt that adds a cherry or two if needed to make sure your bag is filled properly. This is why a bag of cherries should never be closed at the store – it fits 2 pounds with the bag open and the bag is required to STAY open.

Cherry Bagger
The small conveyor belt above the larger one feeds individual cherries into the bag to make sure it’s the right weight.

Finally, the bagged and boxed cherries get stored in cold storage until a truck comes to take them to the store. And don’t even think of trying to open one of those storage units. They have security on guard to make sure no one lets the hot summer air in. Every time they are exposed to warm temps their shelf life diminishes. (Yes. This means get them home and in the fridge as fast as you can.)

Cherry Storage

See here for more fun facts and history all about cherries.

4 Tips for Buying Cherries at the Store

  1. Look for cherries that say “Northwest”. (This isn’t because they’re paying me either. I LOVE Northwest cherries. They always deliver in flavor. The experts I’ve talked to say it’s because of the perfect growing conditions – hot days, cool nights).
  2. Choose firm cherries without a lot of blemishes.
  3. Look at the stem. The older the cherry the more withered the stem will be.
  4. The first cherries will be the premium cherries and cost a premium price. As the season gets underway, prices go down. Buy the premium cherries simply for eating then stock up when the price goes down so you can freeze and preserve them for year ’round use for preserves, jams, chutneys, smoothies, and baked goods. (Check out the cherry recipes below).

Cherry Sorting Line

affiliate link below

Here’s the scoop on freezing cherries.  My suggestion is to freeze them after pitting for easy use. I use this cherry pitter to make quick easy work of the pit.

Delicious Recipes All About Cherries

Sweet Cherries

Thank you to Northwest Cherry Growers for partnering with me on sharing a behind-the-scenes peek at the cherry growing industry.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

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