Rainier Cherries

July 19, 2010

I knew them as Queen Anne cherries growing up, but Rainier Cherry seems to be the name of choice in the supermarkets now. Whatever the name, they are my hands-down favourite cherry variety. Seriously YUM. Not only are Rainier cherries a beautiful two-toned yellow/blush colour, they are also intensely tasty, sweet and complex, occasionally with an almost bitter edge. Very very good. I have been wanting to blog about these beauties for a while, and today realized that I should  post about Rainier cherries before anything else this week  – their season is so short that it is almost over!

I have had a love affair with yellow cherries ever since I was a child, when we had a tall Queen Anne cherry tree in our backyard, under which a hammock swung. Every July we would gorge ourselves on those cherries, fighting over the ones with the darkest blush (they tend to be sweeter).

But recently, I wondered if I might love Rainier/Queen Annes more than Bings or Lapins simply because of their colour. Rainier cherries look like they shouldn’t taste good. I mean, really, yellow cherries? I find it so fun to bite into a strange-looking pale yellow cherry, only to get a delicious cherry taste explosion in my mouth! The sweetness the flavour intensity, the complexity, all seem enhanced.

So last week I held a blind taste-off between Rainiers and Lapins. Myself, my husband and a friend all tasted them side by side, without seeing which cherry was which. The result: it was very close, but Rainier cherries were chosen unanimously as the taste winner. We all felt that they had more complexity of flavour, if not more sweetness. And yet, some Rainier cherries are so intensely sweet they put Bings to shame! Each Rainier you pop in your mouth tastes a little different than the last.

I realized during the taste-off that one of the things I enjoy most about Rainier/Queen Anne cherries is their diversity of flavour. You never know what exactly the next one will taste like. Will it be jammy sweet? Juicy with clear cherry taste? Crunchy with a bitter edge? All you know is that it will be delicious no matter what.

Rainier/Queen Anne cherries are, I admit, pretty expensive. But worth every penny. I urge you to try them at least once. As a treat one day, buy yourself a box of Rainier cherries, rather than that giant muffin or cookie you have your eye on.

As for recipes, this is one of the few fruits for which I eschew recipes. The season for Rainiers is so fleeting and the price tag so high that I find it best just to eat them, snack on them, savour every last sweet yellow cherry while you can. Let yourself do it – just buy them for a treat’s sake and enjoy them while they last!

Comments (5)

  1. We love them too, but were always a little unsure of the variety until I saw your photos on this blog. We have a very old tree in our yard (in Victoria) and treasure the time when we discover, all of a sudden, that they’re ripe! Then we eat them for weeks, never using them for baking. Your description of their flavour and variation between fruit is perfect, some have tartness added into their complex flavour, and the occasional bitterness is always a bit of a surprise.

  2. Rainier cherries are actually a completely separate variety than Queen Anne (and much better!). The Rainier is actually a cross between two dark cherries – Bing and Van – that was discovered at the Washington State University Agricultural Extension in Prosser, Washington in the 1960s. It is very delicate in nature, but grows large with firm texture and very sweet juice! My family has been growing them for over 25 years and are glad to share the fruit of our labors.

    1. Carrie, thank you for letting me know. I had always assumed they were both the same, since I had never seen any other yellow cherries before. And watch that invite! You may find me eating more than my fair share of cherries!

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