Cherry season in the central San Joaquin Valley is notoriously short, so if you haven’t picked up a few baskets, you better hurry.
A warm spring got cherries off to an early start. Some farms started harvesting about a week sooner than they did last year. In some parts of the Valley, a few growers are already winding down their season. But don’t panic, growers with late-season varieties expect to have cherries at least through May.
Cherries are ideal for eating fresh, in salads and baking. Others use them for juicing, pits removed, of course, and making simple syrups for cocktails.
You can find locally grown cherries at your favorite farmers markets and fruit stands including Simonians at Clovis and Jensen avenues, Guliano’s, 13233 Highway 41 in Madera and Harry’s Cherries at Elm and American avenues in Easton.
Harry’s is a family run stand that right now is selling mostly Rainers, the golden-colored cherry with a sweet, delicate flavor.
Also available at other stands is the popular Tulare variety, a large dark red fruit with good cherry flavor.
Vicki Erickson, of Harry’s Cherries, said the demand for cherries has always been strong in the Valley. When the stand opened last week, they sold 450 pounds of cherries in six hours.
“Customers are hungry for cherries,” Erickson said.
Longtime cherry farmer, Yuk Hamada of Kingsburg, is nearly through picking his Brooks and Tulare varieties, but still has Royal Rainiers and some Lapins, a mahogany red cherry with firm and flavorful flesh.
“The Lapins are a very good-tasting cherry that is a very prolific producer,” Hamada says.
Hamada sells his cherries at the Kern Street Market in downtown Fresno on Wednesday mornings. The market is located between M and N streets and is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For those near the Kaiser Permanente farmers market in northwest Fresno, you can find an ample supply of cherries from Allen and Laurel Jackson. The Kingsburg couple grow several varieties of cherries, including Royal Rainiers, Lapi, and Sweetheart, a large, bright red cherry. They also have a Coral Champagne cherry that has a glossy dark flesh and a very sweet taste, similar to a Bing cherry.
The Kaiser market, at 7300 N. Fresno St., is open Wednesday mornings from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.