California cherry season is officially underway, with light shipments of Brook, Coral Champagne, and Royal Tioga varieties beginning out of the San Joaquin Valley area. The Pacific Northwest crop is expected to reach 20 million boxes this year, which is an increase over the 19.3 million boxes reported from 2015. Reports from the growers noted that the crop will be peaking on larger sizes, and the first days of harvest are estimated for the last week of May. 98% of the crop will be available for June and July.

Cherries are an extremely delicate product to ship. They require expert handling and must adhere to strict good arrival guidelines. So, with the season quickly beginning, let’s review some key points regarding the commodity:

Common Varieties:

  • Coral Champagne– a variety with low acidity, a glossy dark flesh and a very sweet flavor. It has great export quality due to firmness and large sizing.
  • Brooks– a variety with coloring more like a black cherry. It has a well-balanced sweetness with a tart finish.
  • Montgomery– a sour variety that is often used in pies; it is large, bright red and typically has great quality from mid to late June.
  • Bing– a sweet variety that originated in Milwaukie, OR. It is one of the most produced varieties, due to being high in anti-oxidants. It is characterized as being large, dark and firm; this also means that they ship well.   
  • Lambert– a sweet variety that is large, richly colored, flavorful and with a small pit
  • Rainier– a sweet variety that is extremely popular, this cherry has a thin skin and thick creamy-yellow flesh. This variety is very sensitive to temperature, wind and rain. They are considered a “premium” variety of cherry, and as such are typically priced higher in the market than other varieties.
  • Royal Ann– a sweet variety that is very similar in appearance and taste to the Rainier variety. It can be eaten fresh and used in making pies; it is a popular choice when making maraschino cherries.

Good Arrival Guidelines:

Young man looking out of driver's side window of semi-truck, portrait

The following table provides the good arrival guidelines for different grades in the United States (sourced from the Blue Book Services Online). Good arrival guidelines are based on a recommended transit temperature of 32F.

Grade Total Average Defects Serious Defects Decay upon arrival at contract destination after 5 days in-transit
US. No. 1 15% 8% 3%
Wash #1 30% 8% 3%

Loading Guidelines

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We have developed some guidelines to assist drivers on cherry loads. Here are the key points to keep in mind when on a cherry load:

  • Keep in mind that there can be delays as the packing house builds up cherry product and properly cool it prior to shipping.
  • Drivers MUST have a pulp thermometer and a camera phone. Drivers MUST PULP, and TAKE PICTURES of cherries and thermometer. The photos must be sent to UWT.
  • Driver MUST call UWT right away before leaving the warehouse to communicate pulp temperatures/confirm we received pictures and confirm they are ok to leave. If pulps are out of range, the driver must wait until they are given permission to release the truck by UWT’s Customer.
  • Remember cherries are extremely delicate and expensive (a full load can get up to $150,000 cargo value!).
  • The temperature of the shipment will be determined by the UWT/Customer unless otherwise notified.  All temperatures MUST be set as CONTINUOUS NOT CYCLE-SENTRY.
  • A temperature recording device (temptale) must be placed on the truck; it must be turned on and placement should be 2 pallets in from the tail of the trailer.

2016 is shaping up to be another great cherry season, and there will be many opportunities for retailers to promote right through till August. We will be keeping an eye out at our next monthly store visits!

Cherry Season: Varieties, Good Arrival Standards & Loading Guidelines was last modified: by