Two main types of cherries are produced in the United States: sweet cherries and tart or ‘sour’ cherries. Washington, California, and Oregon are the primary sweet cherry producing states, accounting for more than 84 percent of the quantity produced nationwide (Northwest Horticultural Council, 2020 Fact Sheet). U.S. fresh sweet cherry production in 2020 totaled 87,000 acres and 236,000 tons. Washington continues to be the leading state in sweet cherry production with with 243,800 tons produced in 2018, down 7 percent from 2017, followed by Oregon with 54,600 tons (NASS 2019 Tree Fruit Report). The United States is the second-largest producer of cherries in the world after Turkey (FAOSTAT 2019). Additional Pacific Northwest cherry facts can be found on the Northwest Horticultural Council website.
The cultivar “Bing” has been one of the most important sweet cherry varieties grown in the Pacific Northwest, representing more than 50 percent of the production in Washington (Washington State Tree Fruit Acreage Report, 2017). Because ‘Bing’ is so popular, it is utilized as a reference to compare with other cultivars and new varieties. In recent years, there has been more interest in improved varieties leading to extensive plantings of newer selections. Some traits that breeders are selecting for include early ripening, larger size, firm, self-fertility, rain cracking resistance and stem-free characteristics. The majority of the newer varieties grown in the Pacific Northwest were produced or selected by the WSU-IAREC Sweet Cherry Breeding Program in Prosser (Olmstead et al 2000) and the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre (PARC) in Summerland, B.C., Canada. Additional sweet cherry varieties and/or rootstock trials are carried out at WSU’s Western Washington Maritime Research and Extension Center in Mt. Vernon, WA.
The most commonly grown sweet cherry varieties in the Pacific Northwest are shown below in the thumbnail gallery and are arranged by color group. Click on the image to open the full view for information about each variety.