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Home > Food Preservation Articles, Reviews, & Buyers Guides > Cherries by Angelina Jordan


Cherries have been front and center as a favorite American fruit since long before the story of George Washington and his cherry tree chopping confession. In fact, it’s unthinkable to most
that George would have been so careless as to harm a tree that produces such delectable gift from nature. Surely, he had tasted scrumptious cherry pie at least once in his life!

History of Cherries

Cherries originated for the most part in various areas of Europe. Included among the prominent countries are Italy, Greece, Spain and France. Other areas of significant origin are China and former Yugoslavia. Thanks to the forethought of early settlers who boarded ships with cherry pits in their pockets, North Americans have been growing cherries during the early 1600’s.

Growing Zones

Cherries can be grown in all U.S. growing zones. However, like all fruit trees, cherries require cold temperatures ranging from 32 – 45 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter when they are dormant. The minimum accumulated cold time requirement for cherries is 600 hours or around 25 days.

Ph Requirements

Cherry trees thrive best in soil that has a Ph level ranging from 6.0 – 6.8. Make certain to test your soil before planting. If the soil in your area varies significantly on either end of the Ph spectrum, you may want to check with your local agricultural extension office for help in adjusting the Ph content. These experts are also a valuable resource for information about growing specific varieties in your area.


Tart cherry varieties are self-pollinating, but sweet cherry varieties require cross-pollination in order to produce. Before planting, make certain to clear at least a 3-feet area in circumference around the hole. Never place fertilizer or compost in the hole in which you are planting the cherry tree.

Plant Depth: Plant cherry trees at the same depth the individual tree was set in the nursery or its container. Leave the graft or bud union above ground, but by no more than 1 ˝ - 2 inches.

Plant Spacing: Space cherry trees 15 – 25 feet apart, depending upon the variety.

Row Spacing: Allow at least 20 feet between rows.

Stakes and Cages

Since cherries grow on trees, they do not require traditional forms of staking and/or cages such as other fruits require. However, it is always best to use fruit tree anchoring systems to support cherry trees. Tree guards provide a good source of protection and support for the base of the cherry tree’s trunk, especially during the early periods of growth.

Sun Requirements

Cherries love full sun and need maximum exposure to produce quality yields. Before planting a cherry tree, try to imagine the tree full-size so that you know in advance that it will not end up growing into an area that is shaded. Lack of sunlight promotes lack of flowering and inhibits development of cherries. When determining which area to plant cherries be certain to check the area for proper air circulation. Cherries do not do well in unventilated areas in which air circulates poorly.

Water Requirements

The amount of water cherries receive during the first year within planting can be a make-it or break-it factor. Cherry trees require a sufficient amount of water during their initial year to live and grow. It is much better to water thoroughly on a weekly basis than to water lightly on a daily basis. Light waterings promote shallow root grow of the cherry tree’s roots within the top few inches of soil and lead to the soil and roots drying quickly in need of even more frequent watering.

Water cherry trees weekly during summer and fall allowing absorption into the entire root ball. Into the fall as the cherry tree loses its leaves and prepare for winter dormancy, you should taper off completely.

Make certain that cherry trees do not stand in water-saturated soil for extended periods. This prevents oxygen from getting to their roots, which causes the plant to die quickly.

Pest Problems

Cherry Fruit Flies – Larvae of black flies that feeds on the fruits of sweet, tart and wild cherries. More prevalent in cherries close to full ripeness.

Peach Tree Borer – Highly destructive to cherry trees. Its larvae bore underneath the bark of the cherry tree’s trunk and are often inaccessible where they live and develop into the pupae stage until winter. Adult borers emerge the next year in late spring or early summer and are characterized as a clear-winged moth with a bold red or orange band. These adults mate and lay up to 400 eggs in the lower trunk of the cherry tree, which hatch in 10 days to continue the destructive cycle.


Black Knot – Fungal disease that occurs on cherry branches. It is common on cherries planted near areas in which wild cherry trees grow naturally. For best results in controlling Black Knot in cherry trees, prune out these areas upon noticing them.

Blue Mold Rot – Most critical disease affecting cherries. It is caused by various molds and begins as a small, round brown spot on the fruit. The pulp underneath this brown spot is moist and a light brownish color. As blue rot mold progresses in cherries, it turns white and forms a bluish-green residue on the outside ultimately rotting the entire fruit.

Gray Mold Rot – Commonly occurs when cherries are in storage. This disease is prevalent in storage conditions of 18 to 24 Degrees Farenheit.

Cherry Varieties

Cherries offer a taste to please every palette. Different varieties offer us a range of flavors from syrupy-sweet to tangy-tart.

Sweet Cherry Varieties

Although there are over 1000 varieties of sweet cherries, there are two primary varieties of sweet cherries produced in the U.S. These are Bing cherries and Maraschino cherries. The best variety for eating fresh, sweet cherries are commonly called dessert cherries and are generally bright red in color.

Sweet cherries are premium choices for use in beverages, ice cream, sorbets and various forms of confectionary. Both Bing and Maraschino varieties are perfect for adding a colorful garnish to an unlimited variety of delightful dishes. The Bing variety has dark burgundy fruits while the Maraschino has bright red fruits. They also produce quality results when used in jams, jellies and preserves for those with a preference for sweeter tastes.

Other sweet cherry varieties are Ranier and Queen Anne. These particular cherries are also very sweet and are lighter in color much like the Maraschino cherry.

Tart Cherry Varieties

Tart cherries are often referred to as pie cherries or sour cherries. This is because they are rarely sold fresh, but are generally canned or frozen soon after harvesting for use throughout the year. The most commonly grown variety of tart cherries is the Montorency, which has been cultivated in the U.S. for over 100 years.

The Montorency variety is deep red in color and its fruits are very hearty making it perfect for pies, cobblers, turnovers, preserves and jams. Its tart flavor makes it an excellent choice for use in making a tangy morning juice drink for the entire family.


Cherries are best harvested when the fruits are closest to their optimum color, depending upon the variety and the stem detaches easily from the pit. Most sweet varieties of cherries ripen earlier in the season than tart varieties of cherries. Sweet cherries typically reach maturity in mid-June while tart cherries generally mature from mid-July to early August.


Harvesting cherries is an easy process. Simply twist the stem of the cherry gently from the tree to prevent damage to both the fruits and the tree itself. Be extremely careful with the cherries since they do not keep well if bruised or damaged.


Cherries may be small by comparison to other fruits, but they deliver a powerhouse of nutritional value. They provide us with a considerable supply of antioxidants such as Vitamins A, C and E, which promote heart health and help fight certain cancers. Another valuable nutritional benefit found in cherries is Melatonin, which is soluble in both fat and water, and has been linked to pain relief in people who suffer from arthritis and gout.

The mineral content of cherries is high, which also benefits our bodies. Cherries contain calcium, potassium and phosphorus. Additionally, cherries also contain copper and iron, which makes them a valuable fruit for building our blood.


The cherry is a fruit that seems custom-made for preserving and enjoying all year long with family and friends. Both sweet and tart varieties can be preserved successfully for delivering mouth-watering cherry delicacies to your table anytime.  Use a cherry pitter for quick and easy pitting for your cherry preserves.


For best results in canning cherries choose fruits that are uniform in color and ripeness. This ensures that your final product of canned cherries will be delightful for eating alone or for using in other recipes.

Wash cherries and stem afterwards to prevent loss of juices during washing. After stemming, remove the pits from the cherries if desired. If you choose not to pit the cherries, pricking their skin will prevent splitting during the canning process.

Yield: 22 pounds of fresh cherries produces 8 – 10 quarts of canned cherries

Make certain to use only quality canning equipment to produce the premium results you want and your family deserve.

* Hint: For original taste with canned cherries try canning with apple or pineapple juice instead of water.


All varieties of cherries freeze very well. Choose cherries that are uniform and color and ripeness for best quality in freezing. Wash and stem cherries, pitting if desired.

For best results in freezing cherries to be served uncooked, it is best to use a syrup pack in freezing. A sugar pack works best for freezing cherries that you will be using in pies, cobblers and other delightful cherry desserts.

Place cherries loosely in bags covering with sugar or syrup pack leaving 1 – 2 inches head space in each bag. Remember, the key to success in freezing cherries is in making certain that you use a vacuum sealer to properly seal the bag and protect from freezer burn.


Wash and stem cherries prior to drying. If you prefer pitted cherries, cut the cherries in half to remove the pit. Spread cherries on trays inside food dehydrator according to the manufacturer’s instructions. For best results, use a quality dehydrator that includes specific instructions.

After the drying process is complete, place dehydrated cherries in bags and seal with a vacuum sealer to prevent loss of freshness and reduced quality.

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