We hit up Alison Jones, president of the Victorian Cherry Association, for the inside word, on the next 100 days of deliciousness.
Where are cherries grown in Victoria?
The Goulburn Valley, Yarra Valley, northeastern Victoria and Sunraysia regions are our major cherry growing areas, and they’re also grown in the Macedon Ranges and on the Mornington Peninsula.
Why these regions?
Cherries need rich, fertile, well-drained soil and an ample supply of fresh water. They require a moderate climate but cold temperatures in winter to ensure an even bud in spring. High-chill areas get a better fruit set. The cooler regions tend to get a better colour density and grow a darker cherry.
What do we grow?
The main varieties grown in our state are Merchant, Bing, Regina, Lapin, Sweet Georgia, Sweetheart and Van, and this is expanding.
The varieties ripen at different times through a season of around 10 weeks, meaning that we can enjoy a delicious new variety almost every week. Remember that cherry season is approximately 100 days, so enjoy the season and get them at their best.
Can you talk us through each of these key varieties?
Merchant is a medium-sized cherry with dark, red skin and golden-red flesh. They have a sweet taste and are available November to December.
Bing is a medium-sized cherry with dark red skin and ruby-red flesh. They have a sweet and rich flavour and are available in December.
Regina is a large cherry with deep red skin and firm red flesh. Available from mid-December into January, they have a sweet flavour.
Lapin are large cherries and have deep red skin and golden red flesh. They are the ideal Christmas cherry; this is their peak time and their sweet flavour is delicious.
Sweet Georgia is a large cherry with dark red skin and flesh. They are sweet to taste and available mid-December to January.
Sweetheart are medium-sized and have bright red skin. Available in January, they are sweet and mild.
Van is a medium-to-large cherry with dark brown-red skin and sweet red flesh. Peak time is in December.
And some cherry basics: how do we store them? Fridge or on the kitchen bench?
There are a a few things that can be done to get the best out of cherries. Unlike other fruit, cherries don’t continue to ripen after they’re picked, so fresh is best. Keep them in the fridge and eat them within 10 days of purchase.
Cherries can be easily bruised or damaged and so the best way to store them is in an airtight container or loose bag in the fridge. I like them at picnics or in lunchboxes, but they’re also pretty great straight from the fridge.
Cherries can also be frozen for up to six months – just remember to remove the stone first and keep the cherries in a freezer-safe bag or container. They’re especially good in cakes and smoothies. This is the ideal way to make cherry season last that bit longer.