Ripening Guide

Learn more about the many fruits of Toronto's Urban Orchard

Sweet Cherries

Cherry trees produce smooth, round fruit that grow in clusters with long stems. Cherries vary in colour and size depending on variety. Ripe sweet cherries can be dark red, bright red, yellow, yellowish-red or black when fully ripe.

  • June
  • July

How to tell when cherries are ripe: Sweet cherries are ripe when their stems pull easily from the tree and the fruit is plump and juicy. You can do a taste test to know when they’re ready to pick – sweet = ready! Slightly unripe cherries will ripen after they’ve been picked but very unripe cherries don’t ripen well off the tree.

When to submit a Pick Request: Cherries ripen very quickly, so a good time to do this is when cherries are full size (usually about the size of a quarter), taste almost ripe, and have changed colour very recently. When they are red but not yet dark red, they’ll usually be at peak ripeness in a few days time.

Picking tips: Grip the stems of the cherries and twist a full turn of the wrist. If this doesn’t separate the stem from the branch, give the stems a pull, trying not to pull off the leaves or the bark of the branch.

Storage tips: Keep the stem attached to the fruit as this will allow the cherries to store better. Cherries bruise easily and will not last long once they’ve been picked. For optimal storage, pack loosely in a single layer, store in the fridge and eat within a few days!

Pruning Tips

Make sure you prune your sweet cherry tree in late summer. This is because it’s susceptible to pests and disease when it’s cold and wet. You want to prune your cherry tree to keep a “central leader” shape. This means it should look like a Christmas tree with scaffold branches coming off a main trunk (the “central leader”). Make sure to prune out the 3Ds – any dead, damaged or diseased branches. Also remove any branches that are crossing or growing inwards. You’ll also want to cut out upper branches that are providing excess shade to lower branches. To maintain your central leader structure, you want the branches on the top of the tree shorter than the branches on the bottom. This will allow sunlight to reach the lower branches. Keep in mind that sweet cherries fruit at the base of last year’s new growth and all along older branches

With cherry trees it’s especially important to clean your tools before use to prevent disease.