Harvesting And Preserving Cherries You May Not Know

Sweet cherries originated in Asia Minor, a fertile region between the Black and Caspian Seas. The most popular variety of sweet cherries is the Bing cherry, known for its heart shape and sweet lingering taste. Cherry is a wonderful fruit, in this article let’s learn how to harvest this fruit!

Sweet cherries

When and how to harvest cherries?

Which are the most important quality characteristics of cherries?

Cherry Tree

Some farmer measure the sugar content of cherries with a refractometer in order to spot the ideal time of harvest. We should focus on harvesting when the fruits are fully ripe and the skin has obtained the characteristic color of the variety. Generally, the soluble solids content (SSC) is important maturity indice, and the ripe fruits should have a minimum of 14-16% SSC to be harvested. The longer the fruits remain on the trees, the higher the sugar accumulation and flavor (especially for sweet cherries, a tool than can be used is the digital refractometer (% Brix)). However, there is an increased risk of quality deterioration and yield loss (diseases-birds, the softness of the fruit, etc.).

Visual appearance is very important the fruits should be:

  • Fully colored with glossy, firm skin
  • Large in size (24, 26, 28 mm in diameter), juicy and crunchy
  • Free of cracks and bird pecks
  • Firm and not shriveled or decayed
  • Attached to fresh green stem

It is crucial to start harvesting when the weather is dry and during the cooler hours of the day. Handpicking is possible and sometimes recommended, but it needs an experienced crew in order not to injure the fruits themselves but also the spur (fruiting twig). The spur is required for future years’ production. To reduce the risk of post harvest infections, it is essential to collect (with scissors) the cherries with the stem attached. The harvesting is usually done mechanically for cherries that will be directed to the process industry or/and in large commercial cherry orchards.

Growers control a harvester machine with a joystick. The mechanical harvester has a large arm that “hugs” the trunk and shakes it to cause the fruits to fall into the collecting nets. Then, they drop into a roller belt leading to a fan. The fan will help to separate the leaves from the fruit stalk. After the necessary first stage sorting (broken stems and leaves are removed), the individual fruits usually drop in a box. Therefore, they are ready to be stored.

Post-harvest management of cherries and storage

Shot of a confident farmer smiling and looking at the camera, while holding a crate with fresh cherries.

Right after harvest, it is vital to take action and reduce both the temperature and the transpiration (moisture/weight loss, fruit shrivel). For this purpose, the freshly harvested fruits should be kept in a shaded place while remaining on the farm and transported to a storage-cooling area with controlled environmental conditions. More specifically, for longer storage of cherries, the temperature should be kept between -0.5 and 0.5 °C , the relative humidity at 90-95% (to preserve the green color of the stems). Except for the environmental conditions, the producer must take all preventive measures to ensure good sanitation and avoid any post-harvest contamination from pathogens or pests. The storage life of cherries also depends on the health of the fruits stored and the variety’s characteristics.

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Video resource: Food Processing Channel

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