Nothing says spring like the arrival of versatile, delicious, bright-colored cherries. (Well, a calendar also says spring, but that’s not important right now.) Right now, though, it’s all about the cherry recipes.

There are over 1,000 varietals of wild cherries, but only a handful are commercially grown for consumption, falling into the categories of “sweet” and “sour” (or “tart”) cherries. Lucky for us, sweet cherries, such as bright red Lambert cherries, heart-shaped Bing, or golden-yellow Rainier — each hailing from California, Washington, and Oregon, respectively — each are delightful and eaten out of hand as a delicious snack or used to make a terrific cherry pie. And tart, bright Montmorency cherries that come into season in Michigan and Wisconsin are spun into cherry syrup for drizzling over waffles and pancakes, and cherry preserves that are perfect as a breakfast spread, for topping ice cream and cheesecake, or pairing with soft, mild types of cheese, such as Brie, Camembert or chèvre — their sour flavor cutting through the milky richness.

From early harvest plump-sweet cherries to Bing cherry black tea, and chocolate- covered maraschino cherries (Fun fact: It’s the only cherry that gets pickled!), these and the cherry recipes, treats, and ideas that follow are the “cherry on top” of spring!

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Theresa Gambacorta is a freelance food writer, a veteran of New York City restaurants, and cookbook co-author to chef Joey Campanaro's Big Love Cooking (Chronicle) and James Beard-nominated chef Nasim Alikhani's Sofreh: A Contemporary Approach to Classic Persian Cuisine (Knopf). She is currently working on a forthcoming vegan cookbook to be published by Simon Element.

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