Sour Cherry Ripeness

Anyone have a good rule of thumb for when they pick their sour cherries? I decided to pick a good chunk today based both on the color and the rainy weather that is expected overnight and through the day tomorrow.

I haven’t decided what to do with them yet. I could juice them, or maybe make jam with them (or jelly- then I wouldn’t need to pit them…). I could mix them with Prime Jan blackberries from last fall which have been frozen in the freezer for an interesting jam…
Here’s what I picked today:
NorthStar- 9 brix and pretty sour. A pint so far from a 4th year tree. Maybe 50% of the crop still on the tree.
Crimson Passion- 10.5 brix and even more sour than NS. 1 quart so far from two 5th year bushes, with maybe 1/3 to 1/2 of the fruit still on the bush. I’m a bit disapointed in these, as they were supposed to have much higher brix. Maybe I should let a few hang for a while and hope the birds don’t eat them.
Danube- 12.5 brix, getting sweet enough that I would eat a handful or 2. Of course, my harvest so far is 4 cherries on a 3rd year tree…Much bigger pit than the CP or NS.
Korean Bush Cherry- 12.5 brix. By far the sweetest of the fruit, even though it is quite pale. Pretty tasty, but not a lot of flesh around the pit. The bush is growing well, as it was planted a year ago and had 3 cherries this year.


Mix them all together you might have enough for a pie. Call it “quadruple cherry pie”

They look quite good.

I just go by color/feel and how easily they pick Bob.

My Early Richmond, Northstar, and CJ’s are all about ready for full harvest now. I’ve taken a couple gallons of the CJ and ER, and 1/2 gal of the NS, but that was mainly as an insurance policy so that at least I’d get something in case of the dreaded rain crack event like last season on the CJ’s.

My Northstar are way darker than the ones in your picture though, they look more like your CP’s. Passed through the red stage and into the darker more purple look. Unless your camera colors are off a bit I’d almost think the Northstar’s were picked quite a bit early.

I tested the brix on mine on the 15th and my ER was going 13 while my CJ & NS were reading around 10.

On the 19th I tested another CJ and the sample I took was still reading 10 five days later on a single very deep purple sample.

I’ve held off harvesting more, as we’ve finally gotten a little reprieve from the over abundant rain here, and I felt like the threat of rain crack wasn’t as big a concern, and that would allow me to see if there is any truth to the rumor that a near black CJ will have a fairly high sugar count. (although as I look to the South down toward Tony’s stomping grounds in Omaha I would not be shocked if we got a little shower before its over today…)

But I also have a guy coming over today to take a look at my CJ’s (He runs a pick-your-own orchard over in Central Iowa and had gotten 100 bare root plants from HBUSA this spring) I figured since he was making the trip it’d be nice if he was able to see how the fully mature bushes look with the mostly full fruit-load. (Man do I hope this strategy doesn’t come back to bite me…)

I’ve not looked into how to post pictures here yet, but I was able to do it on the old site so I may be able to figure it out. If I do I’ll post back later on.

But I think color and feel and ease of coming off the stem will tell you when they’re ready.

I think now that I’ve harvested some I can let the rest hang for a while without feeling too bad if they all crack or the birds get them. CP is supposed to get to 22 brix, which is a long way from 10.5. CJ is reported to get to 15-17, which is also quite a bit above your 10 brix deep purple sample. Maybe these bush cherries require a rain-less prairie to develop the high brix.

My north star are lighter colored cherries like yours and fairly sour. Your crimson passion look ripe based on the color. I’m no expert on romance series cherries but I grew a couple of gallons of their sister plant carmine jewel this year. I roll the cherries in my fingers and if they have some wobble I pick the others that are the same black color. I love cherries regardless if they are sweet or sour. They are not overly easy to grow here so I’ve always felt fortunate to have any cherries. The cherries we do grow have a nice flavor which I attribute to the hot Kansas sun.

I think you may have nailed it.

In his email reply to me last year, Dr. Bors (Head of the Fruit Program - Dept. of Plant Sciences, University of Saskatchewan) said:

“Carmine Jewel has the lowest Brix of any of our cherries. Our other cherries are usually 5 Brix higher. But 2 years ago it was bright and sunny when CJ ripened but very wet when the others ripened. This resulted in CJ having brix slightly better than the others”.

So I just now went and pulled a cherry from each of my varieties and the CJ sample was 13 today, as was the ER, while the NS was 12. So they’re inching up a tad.

But we’ve not had the blistering hot sunny days so far, at least not many. Mostly when it’s not been raining it’s been overcast or only partly sunny. So I don’t know, but I agree the readings I’ve gotten from last year and now this year so far, have not been all that close to advertized. Although I will say that it does not matter AT ALL in the quality of a pie that the CJ will turn in to! You’d be hard pressed to find a better tasting slice of pie, and those we had last year were not reading a high brix either.

My wife made a pie out of the Northstar cherries I took off the tree a week ago on the 14th. They were all a more purple looking cherry but still a lower brix number, and that pie was very similar to the CJ. You could not ask for more!!!

But I know Dr. Bors also indicated that most of Canadian commercial growers were starting to harvest their CJ’s well in advance of a “black” cherry stage, as the longer they left them on the bush the more outbreaks of mold and brown rot they were experiencing in their orchards.

Again as I mentioned last year, to me I cannot imagine a better tasting pie and the brix wasn’t anywhere near advertized. So it’s just not worth the potential risk of all that other junk happening to your crop by leaving them on too long so…


It’s good to hear that it makes a good pie- maybe that means I should go the jam/jelly route (I don’t really eat pies). I’ve purchased un-sweetened tart cherry juice before and it is not bad. But, I was hoping to get the brix a bit higher and I would need more cherries to make much.

If I could get CP near 20, then I would probably just eat it fresh, as I can’t imagine it not being tasty at that point- like a sour candy.

Jam sounds good to me. Jelly seems a waste, for fruit that doesn’t have a good texture.

I’d probably just cook it with some vanilla sugar into a sauce and eat it on waffles and ice cream.

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Does anyone know how well cherries ripen up after being picked? I know they get deeper red, but does the brix level rise or stay the same? Wife picked about 2 gallons off my little Montmorency today and they are beautiful. Still a ton more out there.
Has anyone tried rubber snakes in the trees? I ordered some bird netting and found it nearly impossible to put on, it snags and whew…frustrating.
I layed in a rubber snake to look real life like in the tree and the birds haven’t bothered them. First time ever for that, but Alan mentioned the other day he hasn’t had much bird theft this year either. I will say they seemed to mostly be leaving them alone before the snake, although they weren’t red yet either. I was also wondering if anyone has tried a fake owl or anything like that. It really only has to work for a few weeks.
Does the old timey method of suspending shiny pie pans from strings do anything?

I’ve used netting in past years and found it extremely annoying. Rather than netting individual trees, I ended up building a big net tent, by stringing it from the deck to tree supports. Then I put all my potted blueberries and strawberries under the net. It worked OK, but was too much work for too little return.

I’ve had some, but it looked like it was picking up even more today. Through the window, I noticed a bird going for the Northstar and went over to chase it away- 3 others flew out of the tree. It doesn’t look like the holographic scare tape is doing its job. Maybe I need to use more of it, or apply it differently.

I did the modern equivalent last year with CDs around my elderberries. It seemed to work at least a bit, but it is hard to say.

Trying to see if I remembered how to make a picture show up. If it works it’s just a depiction of the current coloration on the three varieties I have here at the home place.

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I saw your picture on the North Star cherries. I have grown North Star for many years. Your North Star
fruits are a bit lighter in color than mine when ripe. Perhaps you prefer them that way.

When I first started growing North Star I used to pick them when they were a nice red. However I found the last few fruits I picked every year were the best! Now I leave them on until a dark red/purple.
It is amazing how much the fruit will expand just at the end. The really ripe ones will have a glossy
shine to the skin. I do not measure sugar content so I cannot say if they get sweeter at this stage or if the acidity level drops but I find I prefer them at this stage of ripeness.

If I could figure out how to attach a photo here, I would show how dark they are when picked. IF you can keep the birds away, try leaving a few on the tree til dark red/purple and see what you prefer. The downside is they do not pit as easily in my cherry pitter when I leave them on too long.

I only spray my NorthStars once, so Mold/bown rot can be an issue (easily solved with a box fan though - LOL).

That being said, IMNTBMFHO they taste considerably better if you hold them till they become purple…you will lose many to birds, some to rot… but they become rather pleasant to eat out of hand at that stage, not sweet, not tart, rather interesting. Actually I should not say better, just very different. As I also like them while quite tart. But then I also like to eat Bramley’s Seedling(apple) out of hand.

The amount of rain you get alters their tastes dramatically. This year we had a lot of rain so I am harvesting mine early, much redder as opposed to purple. The reason, the rain has diluted the sourness and they are rather pleasant now, about a month ahead of my usual pick time.

I have 7 NorthStars and I dehydrate a lot of them. Yummy…



I was thinking of my own acronym when I read that. It’s WTF?


I’m pretty sure it is a variant on IMHO, “In My Humble Opinion”. I would guess that “NT” stands for “Not Too”, but I have no idea about the “BMF”.

It sounds like I should try to let them hang a bit longer, though I have to be watchful, or I may get none at all. At least I have the first picking, which should be enough for a batch of jam (when mixed with blackberries and white currants for pectin).

I used bird scare flash tape this year and had pretty good results. The more ribbons per tree, the better. This was the first year I left Montmorencies on until they actually got too dark (a little bit purple). I don’t think the flavor was any better than when at peak redness, and they did crack more when left on. This was also the first year that I got some Surefires. Big, juicy, no cracking at all and very good flavor.

Do you have a photo of this “flash tape”? I’m not familiar with it, but I think I can imagine what it’s probably like.

It seems it was a very good year for cherries, particularly Montmorency. Seems everybody has a ton of perfect fruit.


In My Not To Be Made Fun (of) Humble Opinion?

Am I close, FB?

Ahem, On Topic: I agree it seems a good cherry year. My neighbor’s sweet cherry had a bumper crop of perfect cherries with rot only on lower branches, and in whole clusters. I think from the heavy rains we had dripping down on them constantly, and he doesn’t spray at all. They tasted very sweet this year even as they were just barely ripe.
I watched the grackles strip that tree (the ones I can’t pick from my side of the fence, heh) just this morning. Its clean now, and I think they either knocked down or took the rotted ones too.

Our Montmorency and North Star cherry trees got bit by a heavy freeze and frost this spring, so we have very few cherries to make pie. :frowning: I let the fruit ripen till they are a deep red color and shiny, and they are not quite as sour the longer you let them hang on the tree. I love to eat them right off the tree.I love them that way… My fruit never turn purple no matter how long they stay on the tree. When I pit the fruit, I just use a clean bobbie pin.

Sour cherry juice is the newest, latest, health kick craze…

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