The perfect cherry is rounded with a slight heart shape and dimple at its stem end. The skin is thin and taut with deep red coloring. The flesh's color palate is a range of rouge tones. Its texture has a soft melting quality and its flavor bright, pleasantly tart and sweet. The only deficit is that the fruit's seed is buried in the flesh.
Cherries are available year-round with a peak season in late spring.
All cherries are members of the family, Prunus and are descendents of the wild cherry, Prunus avium. They are classified as stone fruits, alongside apricots, plums, peaches and almonds. There are hundreds of cherry cultivars that have evolved naturally and have been developed to improve flavor quality, texture, ability to resist disease and to extend cherry seasons. The most common cherry cultivars are Bing and Brooks, though in the supermarket they are simply labeled 'cherries'. Farmers market varieties include early season cherries such as Sequoia and Sweetheart, cherries named for growing regions such as Tulare and of course, cherries that are named for the cherry developers themselves, such as the Lapin cherry.
Cherries contain anthocyanins, the red pigment inherently found within berries. Anthocyanins are potent antioxidants that are being heavily researched for their potential health benefits, including anti-inflammation and pain reduction.
Cherries are best suited for fresh eating. They pair well with other stone fruit, especially apricots. Other favorable pairings include bacon, burrata cheese, basil, smoked and seared tuna, hazelnut oil, pine nuts, fennel, pistachios, arugula, mild lettuce greens, yogurt, vanilla ice cream and gelato, dark chocolate and berries such as blueberry and blackberry. Cherries can be used for jams or pickling. They can be preserved in maraschino liqueur which is the classic recipe for marachino cherries. Sweeter cherries are best for preserving.