They’re golden yellow with a perky pink to red blush and a sinfully sweet flavor. Delicate inside and out and a must to devour by the handful during the few short months they are in season.
They are Rainier cherries! And with National Rainier Cherry Day happening on July 11th, we’re celebrating this delicious cherry variety here by unveiling 7 things you might not know about Rainier cherries.
1. Bing + Van = Rainier cherry variety.
It still baffles me to think that Bing and Van, two red cherry varieties, were combined to create the golden Rainier cherry that we know and love today. But in 1952, that’s exactly what happened when Harold Fogel and other researchers from the Washington Agriculture Experiment Station in Prosser, WA crossed the two well-known red cherry varieties using traditional breeding methods of crossing pollen. It’s rumored that the mother Rainier tree still resides in Prosser!
2. The name for this cherry comes from Washington State’s largest mountain, Mt. Rainier.
Rainier cherries are large in size, so it’s fitting they were named after our state’s most mammoth mountain. Mt. Rainier sits at an elevation of 14,409 feet and is the highest peak in the Cascade Mountain range.
3. Rainier cherries are a dream snack of birds.
One of the most common problems Rainier cherry growers face is pesky birds snackin’ on the crop. With the fruit’s sweet flavor, you can’t really blame them, but growers go to great lengths to protect their crops from birds. Nets over/around orchards, reflective tape hanging on tree branches, nest boxes, and falcons flying overhead are all ways cherry growers help control bird problems.
4. Rainier cherries tend to grow a size larger than their dark sweet counterparts. They are also a high sugar (or Brix) cherry.
This may not be the best kept secret, but Rainier cherries are naturally big and super-sweet. The average Brix is the sugar content of an aqueous solution. One degree Brix is 1 gram of sucrose in 100 grams of solution and represents the strength of the solution as percentage by mass Brix, or sugar levels, range for Rainier cherries is 17° to 23°. That means that one-fifth each cherry is sugar!
5. Rainier cherries are a common pollenizer for dark-sweet cherry trees.
Rainier cherry trees are often planted between dark-sweet cherry trees in orchard rows in order to provide a different pollen source for bees during the important cherry bloom stage. That’s because most cherry varieties need two sources of pollen for their blossoms to be successfully pollinated by bees. Rainier cherry trees are still used as pollenizers today, although here at Stemilt, we plant orchards of Rainiers in order to harvest and ship more of this delicious fruit to supermarkets!
6. Rainier is the only cherry (we know of) with its own holiday.
National Rainier Cherry Day happens every July 11th. It’s not well-documented how long this celebration has gone on, but it aligns well with the peak of the Rainier cherry crop in Washington State, and is a good time to find the premium Rainier cherry on sale at grocery stores.
7. Rainier cherries are most often eaten fresh, but also make a great ingredient in sweet and savory summer recipes.
From appetizers to fancy desserts, there are so many great cherry recipes that feature Rainier cherries as a main ingredient. Get inspiration for using Rainier cherries in new ways on our National Rainier Cherry Day Pinterest board.
Now that you know all about Rainier cherries, tell us, what is your favorite thing about this golden sweet cherry? Do you have any tried and true Rainier cherry recipes or tips? Share with us in the comments below.
We hope that your National Rainier Cherry Day is filled with delicious Rainier cherries from Stemilt. They’ll only be in season for a few more weeks!