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What shade of red are cherries?

What shade of red are cherries?

Cherries come in a range of beautiful red hues, from bright ruby to deep burgundy. The specific shade of red depends on the type of cherry as well as its ripeness. When shopping for cherries or using them in recipes, the color can give you clues about the cherry’s flavor and texture.

What gives cherries their red color?

The red color of cherries comes from natural plant pigments called anthocyanins. These pigments belong to a group of phytonutrients called flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties and may offer health benefits.

Anthocyanins accumulate in the skin of the cherry fruit as it ripens. The more anthocyanins that accumulate, the deeper the red color becomes.

Some common anthocyanins found in cherries include:

– Cyanidin: Provides bright red hues
– Pelargonidin: Provides orange/red hues
– Peonidin: Provides deep red/purple hues
– Malvidin: Provides blue/red hues

The specific concentrations and types of anthocyanins present determine the exact shade that develops.

Common cherry varieties and their shades of red

There are two main species of cherry—sweet cherries (Prunus avium) and sour cherries (Prunus cerasus). Within these species, many cultivars exist with varying shades of red:

Sweet cherries

– Bing: Deep, dark red. One of the most common sweet cherry varieties.

– Rainier: Yellow with red blush. Lower in anthocyanins than other sweet cherries.

– Brooks: Medium red with yellow background. A heart-shaped cherry.

– Sweetheart: Bright red with deep red flesh. Medium-sized.

– Tulare: Dark red skin and flesh. Large, firm cherry.

– Lapins: Very dark red skin and flesh. Sweet flavor.

Sour cherries

– Montmorency: Bright red skin with yellow flesh. The most common sour cherry.

– Balaton: Dark red skin and flesh. Fruit is large and firm.

– Danube: Deep red skin and flesh.Small, round, and extra sour.

– North Star: Red flesh with purple-red skin. Extremely hardy.

– Meteor: Bright red skin with lighter red flesh. Resistant to cracking.

As you can see, sweet cherries like Bing tend toward very deep, dark red shades, while sour cherries like Montmorency are often brighter red. However, there is variation even within these types.

What affects the color?

Many factors influence the specific red shade that develops in different cherry varieties:

Anthocyanin content – More anthocyanin pigments result in darker, deeper red colors. Sour cherries have lower anthocyanin levels than sweet cherries.

Growing conditions – Cooler temperatures, sunlight exposure, and drought stress increase anthocyanin production and deepen red color.

pH – Lower pH (more acidic) causes anthocyanins to take on a more vivid red hue. Sour cherries have lower pH than sweet cherries.

Ripening stage – Unripe cherries are yellowish with green tints. As they ripen, red pigments accumulate and deepen in color.

Processing method – Drying, canning, or juicing cherries can alter the color slightly compared to fresh.

How to tell ripeness by color

The shade of red provides clues about whether a cherry is ripe and ready to eat. Here’s a guide:

Underripe cherries – Yellowish-green with faint red blush. Too firm and tart.

Ideal ripeness – Deep, vivid red. Plump in appearance.

Overripe cherries – Very dark red/black color. Soft and mushy texture. Lack of acidity.

Sour cherries are typically harvested when fully red but before overripening. Sweet cherries are harvested when deep red but still somewhat firm.

The stem color also indicates ripeness – green stems mean underripe while brown stems signal overripe cherries.

How color relates to cherry flavor

Deeper red color generally means a sweeter, more intense cherry flavor. This is because more sugars and anthocyanin pigments develop as the fruit ripens.

However, sour cherries remain tart even when fully red. Their bright color comes from higher acidity rather than sweetness.

Here’s how the red shades translate to flavor:

Pale red cherries – Mild flavor, light sweetness, crisp and tart

Medium red cherries – Moderate cherry flavor, some natural sweetness

Dark red cherries – Robust, rich cherry taste, higher sugar content

Black cherries – Very sweet with deep, concentrated cherry notes

Beyond color, texture also reveals flavor – shiny, firm cherries will taste fresher than soft, dull-skinned cherries.

How anthocyanins create red colors

Anthocyanin pigments appear red, purple, or blue based on their chemical structure:

Anthocyanin Color
Cyanidin Bright red
Pelargonidin Orange-red
Peonidin Deep red/purple
Malvidin Blue-red

The pH of the plant tissue also affects color. More acidic conditions make anthocyanins appear more red. Less acidic conditions shift the color toward purple or blue.

Cherries maintain a relatively low pH which keeps the anthocyanins red. Other fruits like blueberries have more purple/blue anthocyanins.

Health benefits of anthocyanins

Anthocyanins give cherries antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Studies show they may:

– Reduce risk of heart disease
– Lower blood pressure
– Improve arthritis symptoms
– Enhance exercise recovery
– Protect vision and brain function

Tart cherries have the highest anthocyanin content. Sweet cherries also provide benefits but usually have lower antioxidant levels.

The deep red color of cherries reflects a rich supply of healthy flavonoids. Choose vividly colored fruit for the most anthocyanins.

Using cherries’ color in cooking and baking

Cherries add gorgeous color and flavor to many recipes. Here are some tips for cooking with different shades of cherries:

Pale cherries – Best for light dishes where you want mild cherry flavor without overpowering color. Use in sauces, fruit salads, yogurt parfaits.

Medium red cherries – Provide nice color pop and balanced flavor. Ideal for pies, tarts, muffins, scones.

Dark red cherries – Make dramatic color statement with intense cherry taste. Perfect for juices, smoothies, glazes, fillings.

Black cherries – Lend very strong color and flavor. Great for cherry compotes, braises, chocolate recipes.

Adjust quantities to control color intensity – more cherries equals darker hues. Canned or dried cherries also intensify color.


Cherries add a pop of color and sweet tart flavor to summer. Their shades of red result from anthocyanin pigments that develop as the fruit ripens. Deeper red hues signal riper, sweeter cherries with a more intense cherry taste. Sour cherries tend toward bright reds while sweet cherries take on darker burgundy colors. Use the color as a helpful guide when choosing and cooking with cherries.