Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Cherries come in two basic types from two different species, both of which are native to western Asia and southeast Europe. Sweet cherries are the fruits of Prunus avium, which is probably one of the parents of the sour cherry, Prunus cerasus. Sweet and sour cherries differ mainly in their maximum sugar content, with sweet cherries accumulating significantly more. Cherries don’t improve once they’re harvested, so they must be picked ripe and fragile. Most sweet cherries grown in the United States are sold fresh, but far more sour cherries are grown, and most of these are processed. Cherries are prized not only for their flavor, but for their color, which may range from very deep red (rich in anthocyanins) to a pale yellow. The red varieties are an excellent source of phenolic antioxidants.