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The 2012 season marked the first time there was ­significant quantity of the early Rainier-type cherry Early Robin in the market, says Robert ­Kershaw, president of Domex Superfresh Growers in Yakima, Washington. But there were some retailer concerns regarding the variety’s color and quality.

Kershaw believes that Early Robin is a good “table setter” for Rainier. “But at the end of the season, we had some questions about why the early Rainiers tasted so bad.”

James Michael, domestic promotion director for Northwest Cherry Growers, also received a few comments from domestic retailers last year regarding the redness of Early Robin cherries. Early Robin has similar attributes to Rainier but matures earlier.

“The Early Robins were too red, and retailers expressed their desire to see a little more blush,” Michael said. “When they’re too red, it creates ­confusion.”

The 2012 growing season made Early Robins turn red earlier in the season than in the past, and Kershaw thinks some may have been picked too early.

“Growers must really watch the Brix,” he said. “Rainiers are the mark, and we need to get as close to that mark as we can.”

Spears, too, heard concern in export markets about too much color with Early Robin. “We can get to a point where the blush varieties are too red and they look too similar to dark sweet varieties,” he said.