Types Of Cherries - Sweet Cherry Varieties

What types of cherries will you find in the Okanagan Valley BC?

Sweet cherry varieties include Rainiers, Van cherry, Chelan, Lapin, Sweetheart, Skeena, Staccato, Christalina and Bing cherries.

Cherry season generally begins in June, in the Osoyoos area, and lasts until about mid July, all weather pending.

In the more northern parts of the Okanagan you can get cherries until the end of August at some local orchards like Peter's U-Pick in Vernon.

Cherries are part of the 'Rosaceae' family, and has cousins including apricots, almonds, peaches and plums.

The world history of cherries is somewhat scant, but some say the cherry tree originated in the territories of Asia Minor near the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, and dates back to 300 B.C.

okanagan cherry varieties

The first cherry trees in the Okanagan were planted in the late 1800's, and as the fruit industry grew, so did the varieties.

Once planted, a cherry orchard takes 4 to 6 years to reach full production. The Okanagan, Similkameen and Creston areas now sell over $20 million of cherries annualy in Canada and export markets around the world.

Okanagan Cherry Varieties

Rainier Cherries - The 'Princess' of cherries are a large sweet cherry with a red blush similar to the Royal Ann cherry.

These types of cherries are firm, with a clear to light yellow flesh, a fine texture and distinct sweet flavor.

rainier cherry okanagan fruit

They are excellent for eating fresh. Rainier's are also known as the white cherry because of the flesh color and the skin is yellowish red blush when they are ripe.

Rainier cherry trees usually blossom around the end of April, but like all other fruit, it depends on the weather.

The Van Cherry is another popular cherry fruit that has been grown in the Okanagan for a very long time.

Van cherries are a medium size fruit, slightly smaller than a bing, but are very firm black color, and they are oh, such a sweet cherry. Van's are usually available in the Okanagan at the end of June or early July, and like most sweet cherries, Van's are generally best eaten fresh.

These cherries are also excellent for canning, and in your favorite yummy cherry recipes like cherry cobbler!

At one time Bing Cherries were the most popular of all the varieties of cherries grown in the Okanagan Valley.

okanagan fruit bing cherry tree

These sweet cherries are extra large in size, slightly heart-shaped cherries with a deep maroon color, and a delicious, sweet wonderful flavor. Bings are one of the common types of cherries that you will find in grocery stores and supermarkets.

It's a good idea to store fully ripe Bing cherries in the fridge, because once they ripen, they will only last a few days. Bing cherries are preferred fresh by many people, but they are also excellent for cherry recipes such as jams, jellies and preserves, in cherry pie recipes, and desserts like a delicious cherry cobbler recipe. They are one of the most versatile types of cherries around!

Santina Cherry variety is a very sweet, average sized, black cherry.

It is oval shaped, with a beautiful bright attractive skin. Santinas came from the Canadian cherry breeding program in British Columbia in the 1960's.

Santina cherry is an early cherry, usually harvested in mid to late June. Santina cherries are delicious when eaten fresh. They are also very delicious in sweet cherry dessert recipes, cherry cheesecake and in a homemade cherry pie recipe!

Skeena Cherry variety is usually ripened and are harvested around the same time as the Lapin cherry, around mid July to mid August.

When mature, Skeena cherries, are large, black, and very firm, with a dark red to black skin.

The flavor is strong and of high quality, and Skeena's tend to be the cherry of choice for this ripening time. Skeena cherries are also very good eaten fresh, and delicious in dessert recipes because they are so wonderfully sweet!

The Sweetheart Cherry variety is a late cherry, with a unique taste and a firm fruit that is crunchy when picked and eaten.

Sweetheart cherries are usually available beginning in late July to the middle of August. Sweetheart's are very good in a cherry dessert, canned cherries, and sweet cherry jam. The Sweetheart cherry is also a good type of cherry to ship, so if you're looking to take cherries home with you, these keep fairly well.

lambert cherry

Lambert Cherries

Lamber cherry variety have been one of the main types of cherries grown in the Okanagan, historically.

The fruit is large, round and a beautiful deep ruby red color, and has a semi sweet flavor. Lambert cherries are usually available around the middle of July.

Lamberts are excellent for out-of-hand eating as well as cooking and baking. Thinking about a rich chocolate cherry cake for your next summer dessert? Lamberts are an excellent choice!

Lapin Cherry is a variety of sweet cherries characterized by dark ruby skin, deep red flesh, and are a very large size. These make a delicious sweet cherry jam or jelly!

Lapin cherries are one of the most popular fruits commercially grown around the world, and this variety tends to keep better than other types of cherries. Lapins are generally ready to pick in mid July. You can get these types of cherries at local farm fresh markets all the way to mid August.


Choosing Fresh Cherries & Keeping Fruit Fresh

Ready to pick cherries?

Look for cherries that are firm to touch, and are without bruising or soft spots. Try to pick cherries with the stems on. The skins should be smooth, and free of tears, white spots or blemishes. Cherries damaged by heavy rain or hail may have cracks in the skin and should be avoided. Click here for some quick tips if you plan to pick your own fruit.

  • Store cherries in the refrigerator to keep them cold. They will last for up to a week.
  • Cherries ripen quickly and should be used as soon as possible upon ripening.
  • Avoid storing cherries near strong-smelling foods.
  • Avoid washing cherries until you are ready to use them.
  • Remove mushy or rotten cherries from the bag or box in order to preserve the rest.
  • Avoid placing cherries in direct sunlight, such as near windows, to prevent deterioration of the fruit.
  • You can freeze most types of cherries by first rinsing and draining them thoroughly.

Freeze individually first on a cookie sheet in the freezer overnight. Once the cherries are frozen, transfer them to a heavy freezer bag. Frozen cherries can be kept up to a year.

Don't forget - cherry season begins in June in the Okanagan Valley!

An Okanagan vacation just isn't complete without getting fresh cherries from our local orchards! ;-)

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By: Erika Friedrich Copyright© 2008-2014 OkanaganVacationGuide.com All Rights Reserved