It’s the start of a golden season for BC-grown tree fruits: from June to late fall, you can find a locally-grown feast of fruit like plums, nectarines, apricots, peaches, pears, apples...and, of course, cherries. BC cherries are special. For your family, they’re a locally grown summertime treat -- but did you know that 80% of the cherries grown around the world come from varieties developed right here in British Columbia? That’s thanks to local research and development...along with a boost from BC’s gorgeous growing conditions.
Cherries require a very particular climate to thrive. The dry, temperate regions of the Okanagan, the Similkameen Valley and the Creston Valley all happen to create perfect growing conditions for cherries - in fact, 95% of the cherries grown in Canada are produced right here in BC and have been harvested by BC growers since the 1890's.
Today, some 3,500 acres in BC are devoted to growing cherries, and world demand for the sweet fruit still outpaces supply. Cherries grown in BC come in a remarkable range of varieties, like the Satin, Cristalina, Skeena, Lapins, Sweetheart, Sentennial, Staccato and Sovereign. All of these cultivars were bred at the Summerland Research and Development Centre to be hardier and to fruit later in the season -- as a result, they are the cherries that are enjoyed by people around the world. Cherry varieties that originated in Europe - such as Regina or Kordia cherries - are also grown in BC, and of course individual growers offer many other varieties to try.
If all this has you hungry for a taste of local cherries, you’re in luck. The BC Cherry Association keeps a list of farms, so you can choose the perfect place to pick your own. Or, check out the fruit aisle of any BC grocery store. No matter where you source your local cherries, here’s a fact to savour: every BC cherry you enjoy was carefully picked by hand.
At home, you can keep your cherries refrigerated and unwashed for several days (or pit and freeze them like ice cubes to use in cold drinks!). Cherries also lend a rich twist to familiar recipes: try them in a fruit salsa for fish, a kale salad or cherry chocolate mousse.
Peak cherry season lasts from now until the end of August, so get ready to enjoy the sweetest time of year! For more recipes and to meet some of your local cherry growers, follow us on Facebook or Instagram.