A woman checking out at the grocery store commented to the clerk that she had mixed emotions about Rainier cherry season. On one hand, she adored the fruits, but she said that she couldn't stop eating them. The cherries are quite expensive and, even though she was a cherry lover, she was glad that the season for Rainiers lasted a brief period so that she could enjoy looking forward to them and enjoy eating them, while not breaking the bank.
Rainer cherries are one of the sweetest, most prized types of cherries there are. They are primarily grown in California and the Pacific Northwest and are distinct from other cherries in that they have a creamy, yellow flesh and a yellow and red exterior. While they are still one of the most popular eating cherries, some consumers are put off by their coloring, prefering all cherries to be a bright, deep red. They're missing out.
They are a hybrid between Bing and Van cherries, two of the sweeter varieties, and have been cultivated since 1960. The cherries are often 25% sweeter than Bings and sell for three or four times their price. The texture of the cherries is firm and slightly creamy, like that of a very fine nectarine, but much sweeter. The largest Rainiers will usually be the sweetest, but handle all cherries with care when examining them for firmness.
While the sweetness is what keeps fans coming back year after year, the reason that the cherries are so valued is that they have a short season and are notoriously difficult to grow. The cherries are usually available only during the month of July, give or take a few weeks at either end of the month depending on the weather conditions where they are grown. Extreme heat and excessive rain can easily damage the cherry crop, killing the cherries or causing them to burst. Stormy or windy weather can cause the sensitive fruits to bruise, as can ungentle handling or bumps during shipping, so sometimes the fruit in stores will look less-than-perfect.
While it is hard to go wrong simply eating Rainiers by the handful, you can also incorporate them into recipes: