California Offers Wide Selection Of Cherry Varieties


Bing, brooks and coral champagne are a few of the most popular cherry varieties grown in California, and some growers toss in a few of their own favorites.

Brooks is the main variety Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers LLC ships out of the Bakersfield area; however, coral champagne is the leading variety the company ships.

The tulare variety is prevalent in the southern district, and royal hazel is a high-quality variety that is starting to gain traction, said Erick Stonebarger, general manager of Chinchiolo Stemilt California in Stockton.

Bing remains the highest-volume variety for most of California.

“Coral champagne is continuing to move up to be a large commercial variety that will probably overtake bing eventually,” Stonebarger said. 

Stemilt will finish the season with a handful of lapins, and there will be a few rainiers sprinkled throughout.

Flavor Tree Fruit Co., marketing arm of Warmerdam Packing LLC, Hanford, Calif., puts a focus on early proprietary varieties like Sequoia, said president Maurice Cameron.

The company will have the same varietal mixes this year as last, but with more production on newer varieties like the proprietary Sequoia “club” program, he said.

Sequoia was the flagship and is now one of older members of the club.

With club varieties, geneticists take traits they deem desirable — like rain resistance, dark color, high sugar/good flavor — and cross-breed different varietals over long periods, up to 10 years. They eventually become viable commercial plantings, he said.

They all have similar characteristic that can be tweaked for specific attributes.

“It’s trial and error and a very long process,” Cameron said.

The company also grows the second generation Arvin Glen, propagated by Glen Bradford, as was the Early Glen.

Fruit this season will be larger and stronger, which usually means a longer postharvest shelf life during a light crop year, he said.

“There’s more dry matter in the fruit and more soluble solids,” Cameron said. “Generally the quality of the fruit increases.”

The earlier cherry varieties that most California growers offer are predominantly brooks and tulares, said Rich Sambado, president of Primavera Marketing Inc., Linden, Calif.

The coral champagne has been the most-planted variety over the past five years, he said.

It’s grown from Kern County, just north of Los Angeles County, to San Joaquin County in the center of the state.

The bing variety is grown mostly in San Joaquin County and adjacent Stanislaus County, he said.

“Those are the four strongest red cherry varieties volumewise and qualitywise,” Sambado said.

Primavera Marketing markets a large number of rainier cherries, he said, which account for up to 300,000 boxes industrywide in California.

“We are really strongly committed to rainier cherries,” he said.

In fact, the company has a 16-lane optic sizer dedicated to rainier cherries only.

This is the third year Primavera will offer rainiers.

Rainiers can be “finicky” and difficult to harvest, Sambado said. They can be a great business, though, if done properly. 

By The Packer