How To Pick Out The Best Fresh Cherries

Not so tall but definitely dark and handsome, the velvety look of a deeply-colored cherry is enough to make any mouth water. You may think you've got cherries all figured out, but behind their dashing exterior they've got some specialities that may surprise and some things you should be mindful of when selecting the best ones.

First and foremost, for all of your culinary and edibility needs, there are two kinds of cherries to know, per The Spruce Eats. Sweet cherries are the ones that you're probably buying at the store or picking at a cherry picking orchard. They taste sweet and are perfect for plopping right into your mouth and aren't bad baked into a pastry. Sour cherries are not so pleasant to eat directly but serve as better cooking and baking alternatives. Their strong tart flavor holds where the sweet cherry's flavor might dull during the cooking process. 

Sweet cherries are generally larger than their sour counterparts, but the best and most foolproof way to tell the difference is just to take a bite.

The best at a glance

The freshest cherries will be clean and vibrantly colored with an unmistakable sheen and unbroken and unblemished skins. They should also be plump with taut skins and firm flesh. Cherries with scarred and otherwise compromised skins and/or dry stems are most likely stale, per The Spruce Eats, and are not worth your time. According to Bon Appétit, sweet cherries are typically either a deep purplish-red or a light golden red while sour cherries are usually a deep mahogany or a bright scarlet color.

If you really do want only the freshest cherries, look for sweet cherries in late May through August and for sour cherries in late June to early July (the window is small but baking with sour cherries does really make a big impact). Also make sure to look for cherries with stems attached as these will last you a bit longer, although properly washed and covered cherries will last about a week in the refrigerator as a whole.