Sweet or sour?  Red or golden? Heart shaped or round shaped? When it comes to cherries, one of the most popular fruits to ever grace our tables, the answer will depend on personal preference.  Regardless, these tiny bursts of flavor are packed full of taste and health benefits and deserve a lot of attention.  There are more than 1000 varieties of cherries in the US, but only a handful are cultivated by farmers mostly in California, Washington, Michigan, and Oregon.

Here are some varieties of cherries worth mentioning and taking note of, whether you are on the lookout for a light snack or a cooking ingredient:

Sweet Cherries

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Sweet cherries (Prunus avium) such as Bing, Lambert, Royal Anne, and Rainier are usually eaten fresh merely because they are sweet.  (Unless you’re in a food challenge, nobody likes scrunching faces with strong tart flavors). Their colors range from golden red to purple-black.

Bing Cherries

Bing cherries, named after Ah Bing, a horticulturist who cultivated the variety, are pretty popular because they are round, plump and very sweet.  Their dark and vibrant colors make them eye catchers in any supermarket aisle.  Bing cherries can be eaten like grapes, ideal especially in the summertime.   According to a UC Davis School of Medicine research study, they can even lower high blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular diseases – all the more reason to add them to your staple diet.

Lambert Cherries

Lambert cherries are large, flavorful cherries that are heart-shaped instead of round.  Valued for their quality, Lambert cherries are less prone to cracking and have been commercially grown in the Pacific Northwest for 150 years.

Rainier Cherries

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Rainier Cherries, named after Mount Rainier, are more expensive because of limited yearly production.  Unlike the Lambert and Bing, they are pale and yellowish and have a mild flavor and candied nature, making them ideal for salads.

Queen Anne Cherries

Queen (Royal) Anne Cherries, on the other hand, are usually preserved and used for baking. A perfect blend of sweetness and tartness, Royal Anne cherries are great for baked goods such as pies and donuts. They are used to make Maraschino cherries and have inspired quotes such as “cherry on top” and “tying a cherry knot with your tongue’.

Sour Cherries

Now on to the cherries meant to pucker your lips- the sour cherries (Prunus cerasus).  They contain more Vitamin C and have fewer calories, a favorite among those who would like to lose weight. Sour cherries are classified either as amarelles or morellos with the former having a lower acid content and pale yellow to bright red.  In contrast, morellos have a high acid content and are usually red or dark red.

Montmorency Cherries

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On top of the sour cherry list are the Montmorency cherries. Available year round, they account for 90% of cherries consumed in the US.  Known for their versatility, Montmorency cherries can be used for smoothies, trail mixes, and pastries.  They are often dried, preserved, frozen or canned.  Aside from the flavor, however, they are also known to relieve pain and aid in muscle recovery. (As if we need more reason to consume more.)

Morello Cherries

Last but not least; Morello cherries are considered the “crème de la crème” of the cherry world and with good reason.  Dark skinned, sometimes as dark as mahogany, not only do they make any dish look appetizing, they can be used almost for anything from eating raw to being combined with salt and sugar to preserve. Morello cherries have also become a favorite among chefs around the world because they can be used in a variety of recipes such as jams, candies, cherry syrup, and pie filling.

So whatever your heart or mood may desire, there is a type of cherry that will suit you.  Sweet or sour, all bites can only give you healthy goodness that will keep you reaching for more.

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