By Hana Medina
WHETHER THEY’RE EATEN as the centerpiece of a freshly baked pie or straight out
of the container, cherries now are being
enjoyed by those who have long awaited
another season. But what does it take to bring
these red gems to members’ tables? The
Connection sat down with Costco fresh-foods
buyer Keith Neal to find out.
sorted in packaging sheds for quality, firmness, color and size before they’re packed and
shipped to their destinations.
Where they’re from
Cherries, strange as it may seem, are
members of the rose family. They are primarily grown on the West Coast, with the majority of Costco’s summertime inventory hailing
from California and eastern Washington.
While there is only one cherry harvest
season in the U.S., May to August, you can
also find them in warehouses from November
to January, when they are imported during
harvest seasons in the Southern Hemisphere.
Last year, Costco sold 17 million pounds
of cherries in the U.S.
There are two types of cherries: tart and
sweet. Tart cherries are the smaller of the
two, and are considered the best for baking
and preserves due to their high acidity and
low sugar levels. Tart cherries, typically the
Montmorency and Morello varieties, range
in color from light to dark red. They are
grown primarily in Michigan and other parts
of the Midwest.
Sweet cherries are the best type for eating
fresh: Their higher sugar content makes them
more pleasing to the palate than tart cherries,
which taste sour when eaten raw. They can be
a great addition to salads or turned into a
sweet topping for pork chops. Their colors
range from the yellow Rainier to the near-purple Bing. Costco carries mostly sweet cherries in the following varieties: Tulare, Bing,
Skeena, Sweetheart and Rainier. Other varieties may also be available in limited quantities.
How they’re grown It starts with planting a cherry tree, com- bined with a whole lot of patience; it takes six to seven years before the trees produce enough cherries for commercial consumption. Sweet cherries are picked by hand in the arly morning, since high afternoon tempera- tures can cause them to spoil faster. “Once a cherry is picked, it is no longer protected from the heat, so you need to cool it down as quicklyas possible,” Keithtells The Connection. After the cherries are cooled, they are
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Rain is one of cherries’ biggest enemies.
During blooming season rain can reduce
the effectiveness of pollination, and rain
close to harvest can cause the cherries to
split. “Weather can knock us out of a growing region due to our quality standards.
Fortunately, there are many microclimates,”
Costco would carry more organic cherries if they were available. “It is a three-year
process to certify an orchard as organic,” says
Keith. “Because cherries are so volatile, it is
difficult for farmers to control pests using certified organic methods. If they lose control,
they risk losing the orchard. If they resort to
conventional methods, the orchard instantly
loses its organic certification. For these reasons, only about 1. 5 percent of the cherry
crop is certified organic.”
The Costco Connection
Cherries are available in most warehouses
from May to August and November to
January. For fresh ideas on cooking with
cherries, visit Costco.com and click on
“Recipes The Costco Way.”
JUNE 2013 ;e Costco Connection 65
While cherries are simply delicious, there
are other benefits to adding them to your
family’s diet. Many medical studies laud the
healing properties of tart cherries, which have
been found to alleviate muscle soreness,
sleepless nights and pain caused by arthritis
and gout. Cherries are also a nutrient-dense
food: They are loaded with potassium, vitamin C and fiber, and have anti-inflammatory
and antioxidant properties.
When you’re looking for cherries this season, make sure they are firm, plump, glossy
and still have stems attached. And keep your
eyes peeled for different varieties during their
two seasons in warehouses. C