When Are Sour Cherries Ready to Harvest

evans cherries

How do you know when cherries are ready to harvest?

Here in Winnipeg, we’re lucky to be able to grow some amazing cherry varieties. Yes, they’re tart, but they’re super versatile and oh so good. And, if you allow them to fully ripen, some varieties (Romance Series – Juliet, Romeo and Cupid) can be sweet.

General Guidelines

Here’s a rough idea of when our prairie hardy cherries ripen, but it truly does depend on what the spring and summer have been like.

Nanking cherries – mid to late July or early August
Evans cherries – late July to mid August
Carmine Jewel – mid July to early August
Juliet, Romeo, Cupid, Valentine & Crimson Passion – late July to mid August

romance series sour cherries
Romance Series – sour cherries developed by University of Saskatchewan

Signs They’re Ready to Harvest


Wait for the deepest richest color that you’ve ever seen on your cherries. The nanking cherries in the first picture are not red enough – wait for it as the taste will be so much sweeter!

If you’ve never seen the cherries your picking before, look around the bush to see the different color variations. Find the deepest, darkest one you can find. Now compare it to the majority of cherries on the tree – are most of them as dark or are a lot of them much lighter? Do you see the subtle difference in ripeness on the nankings below? You want the majority of the cherries to be a rich, deep color.

nanking cherries
Nanking Cherries – not quite ripe
ripe nanking cherries
Nanking cherries – ripe notice the deeper color and the plump roundness

Give them a try. If your mouth puckers up and feels like all the liquid in your mouth has been sucked up – they’re not ready. Yes, these are sour cherries, but it should be a pleasant sour.

Overall Look

The cherries should look full, plump and juicy. Notice in the second photo of the nanking cherries above that the cherries are fully round and plump.

If they’re starting to look wrinkly, it’s definitely time to pick ’em. If they are starting to get wrinkly, go ahead and pick them, but be prepared to process them right away – they’ll make awesome juice. Just don’t keep them in the fridge as they won’t last very long at all.


Ripe fruit is easy to pick. When the cherry stem pulls easily from the tree your cherries are ready to harvest. If you need to tug and twist and pull, chances are the cherries aren’t quite ripe

sour cherries

Picking Tips

Grip the stems of the cherries and twist a full turn of the wrist. To ensure a good crop next year, do not remove the spur (the little nub between the cherry stem and the branch).

Keep the stems on the cherry so they’ll store longer.

To avoid bruising and crushing, pile cherries only 3-5 inches deep. Bring plenty of containers!

Storage Tips

Keep the stem attached, pack loosely in a single layer, store in the fridge and eat within 2-4 days.

Do not wash until ready to use.

sour cherries