Scientific Name: Prunus avium
Common Varieties: Bing, Brooks, Chelan, Coral, Larian, Tulare, Rainier, Sweetheart, Black Pearl
California is the second largest producing state in the U.S. behind Washington. Harvest in California begins in mid-April and concludes in early to mid-June.
Commercially-produced cherries are grafted to a rootstock and planted in straight rows in orchards. Farmers typically plant about 100 trees per acre. Pollination is essential for production and because cherry trees are not self-pollinating, two varieties of cherries must be planted in each orchard at a ratio of 9 to 1. Honey bees are the main pollinator.
After an orchard is planted, it takes about 6 years until it produces its first major crop. California cherries for the fresh market are harvested by hand leaving the stem, or pedicels, intact. They are harvested at the firm-mature stage and, traditionally, color change is used to determine when they are ready for harvest.
Fresh cherries have an extremely short shelf life and must be handled carefully to reduce bruising. As soon as cherries are picked from the trees, they are brought to a packing facility where they are immediately cooled using chilled water – a process called hydro cooling. They are then sorted by size and color and packed into boxes for shipping to markets around the world.
Cherries are very susceptible to damage from rain as they near harvest. For this reason, the volume of each year’s crop can vary depending on spring weather in California growing areas.
Growers consider soil and water conditions, fertility, and pest pressures to decide economically viable growing practices.
Cherry grows best in deep, medium-textured soils, with good drainage, low alkalinity, and low salinity. Cherry trees do not tolerate waterlogged soils, regardless of the rootstock used. In California, cherry trees grow well in locations with long, warm summer days and cool nights. Fruit growth occurs for approximately 60 days after bloom, and fruit is mature within 100 days of pollination. Fruit must ripen on the tree for proper flavor development, as cherries do not continue to ripen after harvest. Pre-harvest rains are problematic because they cause the fruit to crack, making them difficult to market and considerably more susceptible to decay. When rain occurs and penetrates the skin, fruit burst open, which can result in 90% of crop loss.
Rootstock and scion choice are key when establishing an orchard, as cherry trees can produce for up to 30 years. Cherry pests and diseases need to be monitored and treated to prevent tree damage and infections in the field. Untreated pests and diseases can remain undetected inside a fruit, with damage appearing only during postharvest operations. The spread of pests and infection throughout an orchard can lead to a large economic loss.
Bearing Acreage: 19,900
Yield Per Acre: 2.86 Tons / Acre
Total Tons: 59,900 Tons
Gross Total Value: $186,512,000
Data Source: San Joaquin County Crop Report, 2020. https://www.sjgov.org/WorkArea//DownloadAsset.aspx?id=33165
Added Value: Essential Food Production, Essential Worker Employment, Education, Research
Cherry Almond Streusel Tart
Pastry for single-crust pie (9 inches)
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water
2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
4 cups fresh cherries, pitted
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoon slivered almonds
4 tablespoons cold butter
Press pastry onto the bottom and up the sides of an ungreased 9-in. fluted tart pan with removable bottom; trim edges.
In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Stir in cherries; bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in extract. Pour into crust.
For topping, combine the oats, flour, brown sugar and almonds. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over filling. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.