Cherries are sweet and delicious, but they can be difficult to find fresh all year round. For those of you who are looking to make cherry pies, cobblers, or just want to enjoy fresh cherries in the wintertime or summertime, then don’t worry. There are tips on how to ripen cherries at home.
Luckily, you can ripen cherries at home with just a little bit of time and patience! These 10 tips will help you get the most out of your cherry supply. You could use them if you buy them from a store, get them at a farmer’s market, or grow your own.
What is a Cherry?
Cherries are stone fruit (a.k.a drupes) that grow on trees and shrubs of the genus Prunus, which also includes plums and apricots. Technically a cherry is any plant part including seeds or leaves that can be used to propagate new plants. Cherries are in the Rosaceae family of plants.
Cherries can be classified into two types: sweet and sour cherries. The sweet cherry tree is self-pollinating, or it requires only one pollen donor to reproduce fruit with its own genes. Sweet cherries are usually eaten fresh and don’t require cooking for preservation (some exceptions include sweet cherry pies and jams).
The sour or tart cherries require cross-pollination with another separate plant. These must be cooked to reduce the acidity in order for them to taste good. Sour cherries come from a different genus than sweet cherries, which is Prunus cerasus, whereas sweet ones are usually just referred to as Prunus avium.
What are the Health Benefits of Cherry?
Cherries are considered juicy fruits. Raw sweet cherries are mostly water (82%). They are a few carbs (16%) and have some protein (1%) and fat (negligible). As a fruit, sweet cherries provide little vitamins and minerals each. Only fiber and vitamin C are present in moderate amounts. Other vitamins are less than 10% of the Daily Value.
Compared to sweet cherries, raw sour cherries have 50% more vitamin C and 20 times more vitamin A.
Cherries are a good source of antioxidants, and they can reduce inflammation.
One study found that tart cherry juice may have some benefits for people with arthritis.
Benefits of Cherries:
- reduce the risk for heart disease
- lower blood pressure
- prevent cancer by inhibiting metastasis (spread) of cancer cells
- boost energy
Cherry pits have a hard shell. Inside the cherry pit, there are cherry kernels. When you chew or break open these kernels, a chemical called amygdalin is released and it makes a toxic substance called hydrogen cyanide.
Cherries are safe to eat if their pits are kept whole and are not swallowed.
What Are Cherries Used for?
Cherries make for tasty desserts like cherry pie and cakes or main dishes like cobbler and salad; there’s even cherry juice as well as cherry tea! Tasty and healthy, dried cherries that you can eat as snacks!
Cherries are not only eaten for their delicious taste, they can also be used in ways other than cooking or eating fresh.
Flavor and Aroma – Sweet cherries have a sweet smell when ripe. Sour cherries have the odor of almond extract.
Preservation – Cherries may be canned as preserves, cherry jam, or pie cherries filling.
Medicinal – Sour cherries can be used to make compresses or poultices for reducing inflammation and swelling. They are made into cough syrup, ointments, tonics, etc.
Taste-Testing Variations of Cherry Flavors:
- wild black cherry (Prunus serotina)
- chokecherry (P. virginiana)
- black cherry (Prunus serotina var.)
- wild black cherry cultivars
How to Tell if Cherries are Ripe?
- Look for cherries about the size of a quarter. They will be ripe when they are about the size of a quarter.
- Choose ripe cherries that are deep in color. They will be the ripest and ready to eat.
- Squeeze the cherries gently to see how firm cherries are. If they’re ripe, you will feel them and they won’t be squishy.
- See if the stems stay on when the fruit is picked. If it is sweet cherry, it will still have its stem attached after picking. But tart (sour) cherries will fall off of their stem more easily.
When Do Cherries Ripen?
Most fruit can be classified as either climacteric or non-climacteric. Climacteric fruit continues to ripen after they are harvested. Nonclimacteric fruit do not. Cherries are considered non-climacteric fruits. So it is actually better to pick them when they are ready and ripe.
Cherries easily become ripe once they are exposed to sunlight and warmth from the sun, which is why many people leave them on their countertops or other warm spots in the house for a few days before using them. However, it may take up to two weeks of sun exposure for cherry fruits to become ripe, so be patient!
When cherries are picked early and refrigerated at cold temperatures for long periods of time (over a week), they may not ripen properly. If you’re planning to eat your cherries or use them in cooking projects over the course of several weeks, then it’s better if you store them in a refrigerator at about 32°F.
How to Ripen Cherries at Home?
If you don’t have two weeks of patience, then there are other ways that you can ripen your cherries quickly! You can place them in the sun for several hours until they become warm and ripe or put them into an oven at 100–200°F for a few hours.
Ripening Cherries on a Tray or Bowl
- Remove cherries from the plastic bag, and place them on a paper towel or cookie sheet on a tray or a bowl.
- Carefully put or spread the cherries on a cookie sheet. Make sure they are not too close to each other.
- Place the cookie sheet in a cool place. The fruit should not be in direct sunlight.
- Let the cherries stay for two days. Then, you can evaluate what is happening.
- If the cherries have not reached your desired degree of ripeness, let them sit for another day before you eat them. Depending on how ripe they are when they are harvested, it may take two to three days to be the best.
Ripening Cherries by using Water Baths
Another way of ripening your cherries without using sunlight is by submerging them into a water bath at room temperature for several hours or overnight.
The water should only be a few inches deep so that the cherries stay submerged in it. This will help increase their internal temperature as they absorb more heat from the surrounding environment, which can speed up their ripening process.
Ripening Cherries by using Oven
- Put them into an oven at 100–200°F to speed up the process until they are ripe enough to eat.
- Test frequently by removing one cherry and gauging its softness.
Ripening Cherries by using Microwave
- Fill up two microwave-safe bowls with equal amounts of water.
- Place one cherry in each bowl and heat it up in the microwave for about one minute.
- Once you’re done, test each cherry to see if it’s soft and ripe enough.
- Repeat this process until you get cherries that are ready to eat.
Ripening Cherries in a Paper Bag
- Remove the cherries from the plastic bag. Put them in a paper bag.
- Put a ripe banana in the paper bag with the cherries. The fruit will emit production of ethylene gas that will make other fruits ripen faster.
- Place the paper bag in a well-ventilated area that offers cool temperatures.
- Position the paper bag so it is out of direct sunlight.
- Keep the bag on for two days. Check if your cherries are ready after that time.
- If the cherries haven’t gotten ripe yet, you should leave them in the bag for another day.
How to Store Cherries?
Cherries are a delicate fruit. The ripe fruit lose their taste when you leave them outside. So place them in the fridge as soon as possible!
Cherries also absorb water when you rinse them. So, wait until right before you’re about to eat or bake before you wash them. Keep cherries dry and cool by storing them between layers of paper towels. If that is too much work, try to keep them as cold as possible.
When you are ready to eat or use them for cooking or baking, then wash the frozen cherries with cold water. Then they are ready to be processed.
When is the right time to pick cherries?
Cherries do not get any riper after they are picked. So you should only pick them when they are ripe.
Do cherries continue to ripen after being picked?
Cherries don’t ripen well when they are picked before they are ripe. This is because the cherry needs time to ripen on the tree.
Cherries are delicate. They will break easily and will not last for a long time after they have been picked. If you want to store them, pack them loosely in one layer. Put them in the fridge, and eat them within a few days.
Are darker or lighter cherries sweeter?
Hundreds of types of sweet cherries exist. The most common one is called a Bing cherry. It is dark red and heart-shaped. Lighter-color sweet cherries such as Emperor Francis and Rainier are also sometimes available at farmer’s markets. In general, the darker the cherry, the sweeter it is.
What is the best time to pick cherries?
In most areas, harvest for cherry trees starts in early June and ends in late July. The variety and where it is growing decides how long the harvest season cherries last.
Are unripe cherries safe to eat?
If you eat unripe cherries, you might get a stomachache. Let the cherries ripen some more. If they are too hard or taste bad, don’t eat them.
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