Cherries are easily one of the most popular and beloved of all fruits. The sweet cherry is commonly eaten as a snack by itself or with other fruits and berries, added as a decadent ice cream topping, used as a drink garnish, and more. Meanwhile the sour cherry is an essential ingredient in many dishes and sauces and is very popular with chefs the world over. As with most other food products, freshness is key and in the case of cherries one of the most important ways to ensure freshness is by following proper cooling and storage methods after harvest.
General Facts About Cherries
Cherries belong primarily to one of two main species Prunus avium or the “sweet cherry” and Prunus cerasus or the sour cherry. The original range of the cherry consisted of much of Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia. However, the cherry can grow in most temperate climates and as a result it is now also grown in the United States and Canada, Australia, and expanded regions in Europe and Asia. Cherry fruits are usually produced in the summer – though some cultivars produce later or earlier in the year – but require cold weather to germinate. As a result the cherry cannot be grown in tropical regions.
In addition to its fruit, the cherry is also prized for its wood. Cherry tree wood is known for its beauty and physical properties and is highly popular in the furniture industry. Cherry trees typically do not produce their first crop until they are between 3-4 years old. Full maturity is reached at about 7 years.
Information About Cooling and Storing Cherries
Cherries are a relatively expensive crop to produce because they are very sensitive to damage from rain, hail, and other precipitation, typically require spraying and irrigation to grow, and are labor intensive. For this reason it is all the more important that once cherries are harvested they are carefully handled, cooled, and stored so that the maximum return on investment can be achieved and also so that end consumers get the best product possible. There are a variety of important considerations for cherry cooling and storage including the following:
Temperature – Cherries need to be cooled to and stored at relatively low temperatures to prevent premature quality loss. Sweet cherries should be cooled and stored at a temperature of about 30-31°F, while sour cherries benefit most from a temperature of about 32°F.
Relative Humidity – Like many fruits cherries have an extremely high moisture content, which in turn means that if they are not kept at a high relative humidity they may shrivel and dry out. Cherries should be kept a relative humidity of about 90-95%.
Shelf Life – Sweet cherries have a shelf life, under ideal conditions, of about 2-3 weeks. Sour cherries maintain their quality for a shorter span of time, with a shelf life of only about 3-7 days.
Methods of Cooling Cherries
Cherries need to be cooled quickly and thoroughly to maintain their quality and taste. They also run the risk of becoming discolored if they are not thoroughly and completely cooled relatively quickly, which makes them much less marketable and appealing to consumers. The following are effective methods of cooling cherries:
Hydrocooling – Field temperatures are often upwards of 80°F when the cherries are picked. This temperature can quickly damage the fruit after it is off the tree. Hyrdocooling is a highly effective method of removing field heat quickly and pre-cooling cherries to a suitable level that can then be completed with forced-air cooling. Hyrdocooling involves submerging the cherries in near freezing water.
Forced-Air Cooling – Room cooling alone is usually insufficient to cool cherries quickly and thoroughly enough for best results. Instead forced-air cooling is used, which involves placing the cherries in a refrigerated room such as a cooler and arranging them around large fans. The fans then pull cool air through the cherries, thereby forcing airflow and ensuring a quicker and more thorough cooling.
Semco understands how hard our clients have worked to produce a high quality cherry crop and knows that they are counting on us to provide reliable, effective cooling and storage solutions. Our systems are ideal for use with cherries and other produce and we will fully customize each of our systems to best fit the needs, capacity demands, and other priorities of our clients. Together we can put delicious, premium cherries in the hands of end consumers.