The Harvest

Cherry blossoms herald the onset of spring followed by the long, warm days of summer and their sweet, juicy fruit. Whether plucked straight from the tree or cooked into blue ribbon pie, cherries are synonymous with fun in the sun. How then do you know when to pick cherries?

When to Pick Cherries

The variety of the cherry tree, weather and temperature all determine when cherry picking is appropriate. To get the maximum production from a cherry tree, it should also be planted in moist, well-draining and fertile soil in full sun exposure of at least 8 hours a day. Sweet cherries bloom earlier than tart and, thus, will be ready for cherry tree harvesting prior to their cousins.

Also, as with any fruiting tree, cherries must be properly pruned to ensure optimal production. Cherry trees must also be watched for any signs of disease or insect infestation, which will drastically affect the quantity and quality of the fruit. It’s not only insects that feed on cherries; birds adore them just as much as you do. Either make the decision to share with the birds, or cover the entire tree with plastic netting or use scare tactics like hanging aluminum tins or inflatable balloons dangling from the tree branches to deter the birds.

Once you have covered the basics and plentiful cherry tree harvesting is imminent, questions still remain regarding how to harvest cherry fruit.

Harvesting Cherries

One mature, standard size cherry tree will generate an astounding 30-50 quarts of cherries a year, while a dwarf cherry produces about 10-15 quarts. The sugar content rises significantly in the last few days of ripening, so wait to harvest the fruit until it is completely red.

When the fruit is ready, it will be firm and fully colored. Sour cherries will come off the stem when they are ripe enough to be harvested, while sweet cherries should be tasted for maturity.

Cherries will not ripen once removed from the tree, so be patient. You will likely be picking cherries every other day for a week. Harvest as quickly as possible if rain is imminent, as rain will cause the cherries to split.

Harvest cherries with the stem attached if you are not planning on using them right away. Be careful not to tear off the woody fruit spur, which continue to produce fruit each year. If, however, you are picking cherries for cooking or canning, they can just be pulled off, leaving the stem behind on the tree.

Cherries can be stored at cool temperatures (32-35 degrees F. or 0-2 degrees C.) for 10 days.