Summer fruit: Australian cherries
When it comes to fruit, you can’t get more Christmassy than cherries. Not only are they sweet and tart little bundles of deliciousness, they also kind of look like Christmas baubles. And they can even work as a snazzy pair of earrings in a pinch.
But this holiday season, Aussies look set to pay more for cherries. The fruit was already up for a price rise, as growers continue to struggle to find workers to help them pick and pack. But recent heavy rainfall across cherry-growing regions has further impacted supply, as the unseasonal weather damaged the fruit just as it was ripening for harvest. This means a further reduction in supply, and a resultant bump in prices. But choosing to buy Australian cherries, even if they are a bit more exxy right now, helps to support our growers.
Australian cherries are available from November to late February. There are more than 80 different varieties of the fruit grown in Australia. Each variety has its own unique flavour and colour, seasonality, growing and harvesting requirements. This means the cherry varieties that were in the shops at the beginning of the season will be different to what you’ll see available in January. Some of the most popular varieties include:
This is a recently developed variety that’s available late in the season. They’re a medium-sized cherry with bright red skin and mild, sweet flesh.
Bing cherries are a commonly available sweet variety. They’re large and heart-shaped with dark red skin and firm ruby-red flesh. The flavour is sweet and slightly rich, making them suitable both for eating fresh and cooking. They’re at their best late in the season.
These are available late in the season, from mid-December to January. They’re a large heart-shaped variety, with dark red skin and firm, golden-red flesh.
Stella cherries are available from mid-December and are a popular addition to Christmas tables. They’re a medium to large heart-shaped variety, dark red with sweet, firm flesh.
Van cherries are a medium to large, slightly squat heart-shaped variety with dark brown-red skin and sweet red flesh. They’re available mid-season.
Rons cherries (also known as Ron’s Seedling) are commonly available mid-season and are one of the most popular and versatile varieties. They’re a large heart-shaped cherry with black, slightly thick skin and juicy deep red flesh. They’re delicious eaten fresh or cooked.
Choosing your fruit
When choosing cherries, look for plump fruit with a green stem. This means they’ve been properly cooled after harvesting, which stops them from drying out. And keep them refrigerated as soon as possible after buying. Once picked, cherries stop ripening, so you should eat them within 4 days of purchase. They also last longer with the stem attached, so don’t remove it until you’re ready to eat them. Store the fruit, loosely packed, in an airtight container or plastic bag in the fridge. They can also be frozen, pitted, for up to 6 months.
For loads of cherry recipe inspiration, head to the Australian Cherries website.