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Discover the World of Cherries


The World of Cherries
Alwyn van Jaarsveld, International Cherry Commercial Manager at IFG


If you watch people in a store while they buy fruit, you’ll note they can’t resist the allure of the cherry. It seems to be magnetic. Perhaps it is the look of the fruit: plump, shiny, ruby-red. Or, it might because they eat so easily, bite-sized with a perfect little green handle by which to dangle them. Maybe our palate knows what to expect? We love their crunch and we don’t mind a little tartness as long as they’re juicy and sweet. We don’t even mind the fact that they’re not seedless and we have to spit out a stone.

We love cherries! We put cherry flavor in pies, jams, jellies, sweets, gum, yogurt, cola, and even cigars and cough drops. We know it is the proverbial fruit on top. Also, cherries come early in their season, and customers long for summer fruit, warm spring days, and mornings that aren’t dark and dank. We’ve come to associate cherries as the herald of the changeover from endless apples and oranges to nectarines, figs, melons, watermelons and more—the spoils of summer. There’s so much to know and love about the cherry, and here are a few more sweet details.

A bunch of cherries
There are hundreds of cherry varieties! Bear in mind some of these were bred as long as two centuries ago and only a handful are still grown on a large, commercial scale, but cherry varieties are numerous and abundant. It’s a fruit that sells quickly, gets higher prices and receives more attention from client, supermarket, marketer and grower alike. They perform better in the marketplace compared to other fruit.

The majority, 95%, of all farmed sweet cherries are red. The rest are yellow or blushed (yellow with a red or pink cheek). Flavor profiles range from light and fruity, through a balanced sweet-tart with or without that essence typical of stone fruit (a hint of almond) to a deep profile that reminds us of black forest gateau, port wine and dark chocolate. Customers used to prefer a very dark cherry to a bright red one, but even that has changed as cherry eaters have learned that both are great and offer delicious flavor profiles.

Challenges associated with growing cherries
There have been some challenges associated with growing cherries, mainly the need for exceptional breeding, time, space and the determination to make the best, most delectable cherry. You need a wide range of natural Prunus material to use in a top-notch breeding program to develop something special. This takes time! Much longer than, for example, table grapes. Space is required as for every single tree that is selected to move forward in a breeding program, thousands upon thousands of trees are grown only to be discarded along the way. Also, to achieve success, the program needs to run for a long time under the watchful eyes of determined people who are passionate about their mission to improve the cherry.

Picking out the best cherries
If consumers are looking to pick out tasty cherries at the store, there are a few things they should note when making their selection. Green stems are a good indicator for freshness. Look for fruit that are uniform in appearance throughout the carton or bag—this proves that the supplier cared enough to grade and pack properly and is a good gauge for food safety and fruit quality. Try and buy fruit in store that was refrigerated properly—even if you pay more—cold chain management is critical for fresh fruit and maintenance of their expected health benefits like antioxidants. Something that has become flabby and overripe on the shelf will not taste good anyway, so paying a bit more for well-cared for cherries is worth the investment.

The future of cherries
Cherries have a lot of exciting developments on the horizon. At IFG, we currently have 10 cherry varieties in the market, and they all eat well. We’ve gone where not cherry has gone before… into warmer climates and earlier seasons! We have been able to grow incredible cherries early and in some warmer regions, which makes them enticing to a whole new world of fruit growers and a new crowd of consumers. Without spoiling any surprises, we also are focusing on many aspects of the cherry and are exploring what can be improved and enhanced. Growers and consumers that love cherries should keep their eyes open for our next scrumptious cherry endeavor.


Alwyn van Jaarsveld has a master’s degree in agriculture (horticulture, entomology) from Stellenbosch University in South Africa and has been working in the fruit industry since the late nineties in a variety of fields, such as integrated pest management (IPM), fruit sourcing and exports, fruit retail program management, packaging, and post-harvest applications and technologies.

In his previous role, Alwyn managed the sales team for the biggest SO2-pad manufacturer for the last seven years and in this role became very familiar with IFG grape varieties. Through this experience he also developed his skills in registrations, IP, and work