Newer, more rain-resistant varieties are gaining popularity among California cherry shippers, particularly early in the deal.

In its early-season Arvin deal, Stockton, Calif.-based Grower Direct Marketing LLC will lean more on its newer coral variety and less on the brooks variety this season, said Jimmy Williams, the company’s domestic and export sales manager.

The coral has a similar shape and color as the brooks, and is similarly lower in acid — though it does have a little more than the brooks. The advantage, Williams said, is in durability.

“It’s a stronger piece of fruit than the brooks,” he said.

Hanford, Calif.-based Flavor Tree Fruit Co., which markets fruit grown by Hanford-based Warmerdam Packing Co., has a test block on which, at any given time, it might be growing 40 varieties.

In 2010 another of those trial varieties, the Yosemite, a dark, very sweet cherry with brix expected to hit 20 or higher, will be making its debut in wide distribution after a trial run with customers last year, said Maurice Cameron, Flavor Tree’s president.

The Yosemite joins the Sequoia, another new proprietary Flavor Tree variety now in wide production.

When analyzing which test varieties will make the cut, hardiness counts for a lot, Cameron said.

“Rain-resistance is a big deal,” he said. “These are early cherries, so there can be rains, and in the event there are, we don’t want to lose the whole crop.”

With rain-resistant newer varieties, growers may lose 15% of the crop after a particularly heavy storm, Cameron said. Another early variety, the brooks, on the other hand, could suffer 80% losses from the same storm, and 80% essentially means 100%, since the few cherries left on trees aren’t worth the price of the labor it takes to pick them, he said.

For that reason, in two different blocks this year, Flavor Tree has grafted brookses over to Sequoias, Cameron said.

Another reason is that Sequoias are a lot cleaner on average than brookses, with fewer defects in the field, he said.

With young trees maturing and new trees being planted, Sequoia production continues to increase significantly for Flavor Tree, Cameron said.
Traver, Calif.-based Scattaglia Growers & Shippers will kick the season off with brookses and tulares, then add rainiers, royal rainiers, garnets and bings later in the deal, said Dave Parker, marketing director.

While bing is king for Scattaglia, as it is for more California shippers, all varieties have their place, Parker said.

“We start strong with brooks, get stronger with tulares and stronger still with bings,” he said. “They’re all good varieties if you pick them at the right time.”

Royal rainiers are very similar to rainiers, Parker said. The addition of them has given Scattaglia a way to extend its California rainier season, he said.
In 2009, Fridley, Minn.-based Roland Marketing shipped Green Giant-branded California cherries on a test basis.

This season, in its first year as a shipper with a full-fledged California program, the company will ship bings, brookses, tulares and other dark varieties and a few rainiers, said Joan Tabak, sales manager.

While the company’s offerings are wide, there’s no question about which variety will get top billing, Tabak said.

“Obviously, bing is the favorite,” she said.

Brookses, however, will be the first variety out of the gate for Roland, most likely in a light way around April 20-22, followed by heavier volumes the first week of May, Tabak said.