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Organic Cherries: Growing, Picking, Ripening, and Storage

It's Cherry Season at FruitShare...

and we can't wait. During this short window, FruitShare staffers eat cherries by the handful!  Our season begins late June and continues well into July.  Cherries ripen on the tree (and yes cherries grow on trees in case you were wondering). Our cherries are grown at a small farm in Washington State, and hand-picked when ready.  At our grower's orchard pickers will make up to 4 passes on each tree during the harvest season to ensure cherries are picked at their full ripeness (as opposed to picking the entire tree at once and including cherries not yet ripe).  This makes FruitShare's cherries about the sweetest things on the planet.

Typically cherries are picked and refrigerated immediately following to maintain freshness.  With our organic cherries--grown without the use of pesticides and fungicides-- this is especially true. Growing organic cherries can be tricky but we have growers who believe it is worth it!

Should I buy organic cherries?

Many people ask, do cherries need to be organic?  Well, we certainly think so.  Don’t believe us, though, you can also check on the Environmental Working Group’s annual Dirty Dozen list (EWG is a great consumer resource group that also tracks the safety of cosmetics and skin care products).   Here is a brief excerpt from their explanation of the 2017 Dirty Dozen report:

“For the Dirty Dozen list, EWG singled out produce with the highest loads of pesticide residues. This year the list includes, in order, strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, celery, grapes, pears, cherries, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, and potatoes.

Each of these foods tested positive for a number of different pesticide residues and contained higher concentrations of pesticides than other produce.”

The EWG report emphasizes something we have known and believed in for years:  Pesticides can't be good for your body or the planet and should be avoided when possible.  What's great is that our products are all certified organic and we offer all of the fruits listed in bold above.

Do Cherries have Pesticides?

In addition, the USDA keeps data on pesticide use.  The USDA Pesticide Data program cited dozens of pesticides found on cherries in 2015 including many suspected carcinogens and also known hormone disrupters.  

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “the health effects of pesticides are not well understood, but their use has been associated with conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and neurological effects”.  Pesticides are used to control pests such as mites, scale, cherry fruit fly, powdery mildew, Coryneum and bacterial canker and are sprayed on the trees at various times throughout the year.  

Some pesticides are used during the dormant stage of the tree to reduce pests that might overwinter on the tree, while others are applied throughout the growing season including while the fruit is forming on the tree.  Given that the instructions for pesticide use include using the appropriate protective clothing, we kinda think we might want to avoid these chemicals as well!  

Fungicides are used to prevent diseases on the fruit including brown rot, green rot, and powdery mildew.  Fungicides are often sprayed at both the Bloom stages, and also 1-10 days pre-harvest.  The long-term effects of fungicides on humans are still unknown.  The use of fungicides is largely unknown by consumers, yet they have been conditioned to expect fruit will have a very long shelf life. 

Do I put cherries in the Fridge?

We ship our cherries with ice packs and, depending upon your location, strongly recommend 2-day shipping.  When your cherries arrive be sure to open the box immediately and place your cherries in the fridge. Again, while you may be used to seeing a bowl of cherries on the counter, organic cherries are not treated with fungicides so they do not hold up well in this scenario.  

Wash the cherries when you are ready to eat, not before.  Washing them makes them more prone to spoilage.  Most of our customers tell us that they have no trouble getting through the cherries and often need to order more.  If you find a cherry in the mix that is starting to break down or go soft, take this one out immediately and toss, then wash any of the surrounding cherries, pat dry and refrigerate.

Can I freeze cherries?

We tend to eat most of our cherries fresh but you can freeze cherries.  Frozen cherries are great in quick breads and baked goods.  Cherry jam is also a great option.  We recommend removing the pits with a cherry pitter (or an olive pitter works great too!).  With the pits removed you know the cherries are safe for crisps, pies and your dental work will thank you!  

In fact, many people wonder, “Is it ok if I swallow a cherry pit?” Cherry pits, like apple seeds, contain amygdalin, which releases cyanide when metabolized.  The body can process trace amounts of this naturally (and very little is produced if the pit is swallowed whole vs ground up).  One cherry pit swallowed whole should not cause the body harm--but generally, it is good to avoid the pits.  

Related:  Organic cherries and Breakfast Oats

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