Said to date as far back as 300 B.C., cherries were named after the Turkish town of Cerasus. Throughout the centuries, cherry trees have been lauded for their deliciously succulent fruit as well as for their beauty. Tourists flock to Washington, D.C., every year to see the cherry blossoms on the ornamental cherry trees that were originally presented to America's capital in 1912 by Tokyo's governor. There are two main groups of cherries sweet and sour. The larger of the two are the firm, heart-shaped sweet cherries. They're delicious for eating out of hand and can also be cooked. The most popular varieties range from the dark red to purplish black bing, lambert and tartarian to the golden, red-blushed royal ann. maraschino cherries are usually made from Royal Ann cherries. Sour cherries are smaller, softer and more globular than the sweet varieties. Most are too tart to eat raw, but make excellent pies, preserves and the like. The best-selling sour cherry varieties are the bright red early richmond (the first cherry available in the late spring) and montmorency, and the dark mahogany red morello. Most fresh cherries are available from May (June for sour cherries) through August. Choose brightly colored, shiny, plump fruit. Sweet cherries should be quite firm, but not hard; sour varieties should be medium-firm. Stemmed cherries are a better buy, but those with stems last longer. Store unwashed cherries in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Dried cherries both sweet and sour are available in many markets today. They can be eaten as a snack, or used in baked goods or desserts as one would use raisins. Cherries contain minor amounts of vitamins and minerals.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.