by Gary Mount
Picking your own fruit leads to a lot of questions – weather forecast, clothing, how much to pick -on and on. But when it comes to cherries, the decision is a weighty one of whether to pick them with the stem (slowly and carefully) or without the stem (much faster).
Cherries grow on two- to three-inch stems, just the way that you see them in the store. At bloom, the cherry-flower clusters are tight to the limb. After the flowers bloom, the stem grows rapidly, giving the developing cherry some room to grow. Cherries are so fragile and susceptible to decay that they would not do well jammed tightly together. Space between the cherries would stay moist, fostering decay. Also, pressure from the other cherries in such tight quarters would deform the cherry and damage the skin.
Regardless of whether you pick with or without the stem, one thing for sure is that there will be a lot of cherries. I just read about a contest sponsored by cherry growers in Washington last year. The idea was to guess the number of cherries on a tree. The number was 12,299! I think the tree in question was larger than my trees (we planted dwarf trees for easy picking). But still, two acres times 300 trees per acre times ???? cherries per tree – wow, that’s a lot of cherries. I hope you are all hungry for cherries.
But the cherries don’t all have to be picked at the same time. We have eleven varieties of sweet cherries: Hudson, Somerset, Ulster, Heidelfingen, Lapins, Van, Sam, Ranier, Hartland, Chelan, and Schmidt as well as Montmorency sour cherries. Each variety is ready to pick at a slightly different time. The harvest can be spread out over two weeks or so, but be forewarned; hot weather can greatly accelerate the ripening process. The cherries can be gone before you know it.
But with the stem or without? The best I can say is that it really depends on how and when you plan to use them. For immediate use or in salads or pies, the fast and easy way (without stems) will do. If you plan to refrigerate them for more than a day or two, then pick with the stems. This is slower but does not break the skin of the cherry. Happy Picking!