Bing cherries are a very popular variety of cherry first cultivated in Oregon in the 19th century by Seth Lewelling. The cherry got its name from Lewelling’s foreman, who is only identified as Bing. It is said that Bing proved helpful in cultivating these cherries and some sources credit Bing as the true inventor of this most popular of cherries.
Since their cultivation in the 1870s, Bing cherries have become the most popular of North American cherries, surpassing every other style. They are drawn to the deep red color of the cherries, and also their consistently sweet taste. Bing cherries are still true to their home roots, with the largest cherry producers on the Pacific coast states. Their season is relatively short, though, so it can be easy to miss. Generally you’ll find them fresh from early June to July.
The color of Bing cherries can vary slightly. They may be bright red to a deep maroon, and normally darken as they ripen. The riper cherry will exhibit the sweetest taste, but even those that are still somewhat firm and bright red are usually sweet. It’s a good idea to keep fully ripe Bing cherries in the fridge, especially since they are mostly available during the hot months. Once ripe, they only last a few days before rotting, and the old saying, “A bad apple can spoil a whole bunch,” similarly applies to cherries. Once Bings start molding, the mold can easily spread to the rest of a bag or bowl of Bings.
Many people prefer to eat Bings straight out of the hand. They are excellent simply washed and eaten as such. Bing cherries also make their way into delicious cherry jam and preserves, cherry pie, and desserts like cherries jubilee. If you want a truly superlative cherry pie, you may want to choose Bings that are less on the ripe side, or add a few Queen Annes or Raniers to the mix. Generally Bings are so sweet, that they make for a too sweet filling if used when completely ripe. A slightly tart cherry tends to create a better pie.
Like many agricultural products, Bing cherries can vary in quality depending upon the season in which they are grown. Late rains, particularly common in Oregon and Washington, can wreck a cherry crop, causing mold to form on the cherries or the skins of the cherries to burst. Farmers also have to contend with birds for their cherry crop. Most birds are drawn to cherries as an extraordinary delicacy. Thus picking the cherries as soon as they are ripe is quite important in order to get a full crop.
Studies performed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2003 show preliminary evidence that Bing cherries help reduce toxins from the body and are a great anti-inflammatory food. The cherries were tested both for their effectiveness in treating arthritis and gout, and the research study concluded that positive results might be gained from eating a daily supply of fresh cherries.