Enjoy the Flavors of Contra Costa County
You might think that all cherries are alike, but there are over 1,000 types of cherries cultivated throughout the world. Right here, in Contra Costa County, we are lucky enough to enjoy at least a dozen different varietals all within the Brentwood, Oakley, Bryon and Knightsen corridor. When you are heading out to the orchards to pick, here is a bit of information into the different cherries you may find. At Local Backroads, we think you should try them all and find out which variety is your favorite.
Local Sweet Cherries
Lapins: Lapins are favorite, dark, red cherry. These cherries are perfect for snacking because they hold their integrity well in the fridge – remaining juicy, crisp and sweet.
Sweethearts: Sweethearts got their name from their shape. If you hold them up, they look like a little heart! These sweet delicacies are ideal for baking. They have a high sugar content and are a bit tart. Plus, they hold their structure really well when they are baked. They are also sweet and delicious for snacking.
Rainier: Rainiers are a very special cherry. Because they bruise really easily, they are difficult to package and very expensive to find in the grocery store. At U-pick, pricing is the same for all the varieties, so you can get an extra great deal on cherries that have a reputation for being delicious. You know they are ready to pick when the yellow tone turns a pink blush.
Coral Champagne: Coral Champagnes are a bold, dark red with a robust flavor and a brilliant crunch. These berries are perfect for eating, baking, and freezing. They are an all-around excellent cherry. Farmers say you can’t go wrong with a Coral.
Black Pearls/Ebony Pearls: The Black Pearl Cherry, also known as the Ebony Pearl cherry, is a cherry bursting with flavor. Black Pearls are known to be hardy and split resistant. Also, because they are so hardy, farmers say they have great storage qualities and keep better, and longer, then many other cherry varieties.
Bing: Bings are the most popular variety of sweet cherries throughout the United States. Bing cherries are juicy, sweet and known for their very high quality. This variety of cherries is known to be large, glossy, and deep red. Bings are perfect for snacking right off the tree!
Unique Sweet Cherry Varieties
Royal Tioga: The Royal Tioga variety of cherries are also known for being large and fun to eat. These cherries are very firm, have a nice red skin with a beautiful rose-colored flesh. Royal Tioga’s have a rich flavor and a great shelf life.
Van: Van cherries are a Canadian variety that are smooth, rounded, with a deep red to black shiny finish. Like sweetheart cherries, Vans are heart-shaped as well. The flesh of Van cherries is firm, juicy and has a hint of tartness. Perfect for snacking, baking and cooking.
Utah Giants: Utah Giants are continually growing in popularity due to their size, flavor consistency and shelf-life. Like the flavor profiles of a Bing, Utah Giants are sweet, juicy and perfect for eating and baking.
Santina: Santina’s are an early cherry variety with an incredibly dark, nearly black, coloration. Santina’s are sweet, but not as sweet as some of the other varieties found throughout our local backroads. People who love Santina’s tend to appreciate the flavor the cherry brings without the taste being overwhelmingly sweet.
Brooks: Brooks cherries are large, firm, and boast a beautiful shade of red. Some farmers say that Brooks cherries have all the characteristics of an ideal cherry. The skin is glossy and firm and each bite is met with a crisp snapping sound. The flesh is a deep red that will stain on contact. The sweetness of the cherries is balanced with complex flavors of dried spices.
Enjoy the Rich Flavors of Cherry Season
U-pick season lasts somewhere between 4 and 7 weeks. It is brief and cherries sell at a brisk pace. There are so many delicious cherries lining our local backroads. In fact, the trees are dripping cherries ready to be picked. We made the decision to explore all our local cherry farms, on a mission to try each of the distinct varietals that are available. We all found a favorite. Now it is your turn to explore your local backroads and spend a day cherry tasting!