Remember, it will take three to five years before your tree will begin to produce fruit. When it does, however, a full-sized variety will produce up to 50 quarts of fruit per year, and dwarf varieties produce about 20 quarts.
Harvest time for cherries is between May and August, depending on your climate and the cultivars you’re growing.
The sugar content of cherries increases significantly during the last few days of ripening. That means you should only pick them when they’re completely ripe: firm and fully dark red, black, or yellow, depending on the variety.
Sour cherries will come off the stem when they’re ripe, but you should taste sweet cherries to tell if they’re ready to pick. Neither type of cherry will continue to ripen after it’s been picked.
Be prepared to harvest all your cherries within a week. Using scissors can speed up harvesting sweet cherries and can also help to avoid injuring the shoots, which may lead to infection. Clip the stem so you don’t pull on the fruit and tear into it. Take care to leave the fruit spur to produce fruit next year.
Get your cherries from harvest to cold storage as quickly as possible to slow down the ripening process. Cherries can be stored for up to a week in dry conditions in the refrigerator—fruit declines a great deal in quality quite quickly if left at room temperature. Leave the stems on the fruit to maintain freshness even longer.
You’ll increase the firmness of the fruit—an important consideration if you’re planning to freeze some—by layering it between paper towels. Freezing is fine for cherries as long as the fruit has been rinsed and patted dry first.
How do you decide when your cherries are ripe? Please share your tips for determining ripeness with us in the comment section below.