ontario cherries season

What's Fresh Toronto? Cherries!

First come the sour and then come the sweet - but it's finally time to start enjoying cherries.

We're heading into another Ontario cherry season and there are lots of reasons to get excited. Whether you like it sweet, sour, or pitted and chilled, July is the month to get your cherry on.

The venerable cherry is a member of the rose family and the genus Prunus, which it shares with apricots, peaches, plums, and almonds. They've been cultivated since at least 300 BC. Cherries are generally divided into three categories according to flavour: sweet, sour, and sweet-and-sour.

Here in Ontario (where I hear good things grow, by the way), we are lucky enough to see a great selection of both sweet and sour. Sweet varieties we grow include the Hedelfingen, Vista, Viva, Vega, Vogue, Viscount, Van, Bing, Vandelay and Tehranivee. The sour cherries are mostly the Montmorency variety.

Sour cherries have been available for the last couple of weeks, and are generally available before the sweet. But the season is now in full swing for both sweet and sour, and I picked up some sweet cherries at the St. Lawrence Farmers Market (north building on Saturdays) last weekend that were pretty darned good.

If you really aren't satisfied with the cherries you are getting from the market or grocery store, try heading out to a farm and picking your own. There's nothing quite like a perfectly ripe cherry right off the tree. You can find pick-your-own operations at the Harvest Canada or Ontario Farm Visit websites, be sure to call the farm you plan to visit ahead of time to make sure they aren't all picked out.

So whether you've hit the market or picked your own, you've busted your rear trying to get these little beauties to come home with you. Now what do you do with them? For starters, straight up is a great way to enjoy the sweet variety of cherries. Just wash and enjoy. Or with sheep's milk yogurt for breakfast, in salads at lunch, or booze them up and cook them down slightly for a compote to keep your pork company at dinner.

The sour varieties most often find their ways into pies, and can be picked up in 4.5 kg pails at various grocery stores starting next week (just ask the produce manager cause they often keep them in the back).

Cherries also take well to preserving, or you can enjoy the dried variety all year long. I think my favourite cookie EVER is a chocolate cookie with dried sour cherries, toffee bits and dark chocolate chunks.

Whatever way you care to use them, cherry season is short (only about three weeks left!) and the red babes of Ontario's fruit season are fleeting. So get on that next time you're out grocery shopping.

As the growing season continues, I'll be keeping track of what is becoming available each step of the way, and will share my findings in this here farm fresh feature "What's Fresh, Toronto?" Stay tuned for future installments.

What's been fresh, Toronto:
Ramps
Fiddleheads
Asparagus
Rhubarb

Radishes
Strawberries

Lead photo by the author.


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