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 95 percent of the quantity produced nationwide (NASS 2018 Cherry Report). The primary tart cherry producing state is Michigan, which typically accounts for nearly 75 percent of tart cherry production. U.S. sweet cherry production (utilized) in 2018 totaled 344,400 tons valued at more than $637.7 million. Washington led the nation in sweet cherry production in 2017, with 245,000 tons (NASS 2019 Tree Fruit Report) The United States is the third-largest producer of cherries in the world. The European Union-27 is the leading cherry producer, followed by Turkey (FAS 2012). Additional Pacific Northwest cherry facts can be found on the Northwest Horticultural Council website.
“Bing” has been one of the most important sweet cherry varieties grown in the Pacific Northwest as recently as the 1990’s. “Bing” is so commonly known that it is used as a basis of comparison when discussing sweet cherry selections. For example, ripening time for a variety may be referred to as being a set number of days before or after “Bing”. 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 maturing, self-fertility, rain cracking resistance and stem characteristics. The majority of the newer varieties grown in the Pacific Northwest were produced or evaluated by the following breeding programs: WSU-IAREC – Prosser (Olmstead et al 2000); the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre (PARC) Summerland, B.C., Canada; and the OSU cultivar evaluation program. Additional sweet cherry variety and/or rootstock trials are carried out at WSU’s Western Washington Maritime Research and Extension Center in Mt. Vernon, WA and at WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee, WA and at their associated Sunrise research orchard. A few other sweet cherry varieties grown in lesser amounts are a product of the New York State Agricultural Research Station at Geneva, NY and from Michigan State University’s breeding program.
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.