No, these little green things aren’t grapes. They are actually maturing Chelan cherries, a dark-sweet cherry variety that will eventually turn dark red once they are fully ripe.
February brings with it a certain aroma. A sweet, pink-tinged scent that glides through the streets, floating around heads and pulling back, a tickle at the edge of our nostrils. This strange and exhilarating phenomenon is the phantom manifestation of the promise for cherries. That’s right, February is National Cherry Month! Despite Valentine’s Day stealing the weekend spotlight, pink and red foiled chocolate hearts have some competition for favored treat this season against the sweet, succulent, slowly ripening Washington cherries.
Many farmers grow and harvest cherry orchards on DNR–managed lands throughout the state. Currently, DNR has 17 leases with cherry orchards in various counties throughout Washington spanning across 1,014 acres of state trust lands. These orchards produce about 7,228 tons of harvested cherries each year.
Even though National Cherry Month is celebrated in February, cherries aren’t actually harvested on state trust land orchards until June or July. Farmers harvest two types of cherries in summer: tart or sour cherries, and sweet cherries. Washington state is one of the largest producers of sweet cherries in the nation.
Washington sweet cherry varieties
• Dark-sweet cherries – These cherries are usually dark red, mahogany, or near black in color outside, and purple or deep red inside. These round or heart shaped berries are firm and slightly crunchy, releasing plenty of juice when bitten into or crushed. Dark-sweet cherries can be eaten fresh, frozen, baked in desserts, or mixed in salads. Popular varieties are: Brooks, Chelan, Garnet, Sequoia, Bing, Lapins, Skeena, Sweetheart, and Staccato cherries
• Rainier cherries – The colorful kid sister of dark-sweet cherries, Rainier cherries are a vibrant yellow-orange color with hints of red blush and occasional light brown “sugar spots” on the skin. These cherries are larger than dark-sweet cherries and have a near translucent interior. Rainier cherries are best when eaten fresh or used as garnish for salads and drinks.
• Royal Anne cherries – Similar to Rainier cherries, Royal Anne, or Queen Anne cherries are bright yellow and red in appearance. With a light and honeyed flavor, they can be eaten fresh much like Rainier cherries. Royal Anne cherries, however, are widely known for their use in making maraschino cherries. They are also great for canning and baking desserts.
There is no question that cherry orchards on state trust lands produce some of the most delectable cherries in the country, and these cherries generate approximately $435,845 in revenue and $96,583 in cash rents. Learn more about farming state trust lands. Sign up for DNR’s The Dirt e-newsletter here.