For the first year ever, Bing was not king.
In 2016, Northwest cherry growers shipped more Sweetheart cherries than any other variety, including the historically dominant Bing, according to a board of directors update from the Washington State Fruit Commission.
The Northwest cherry industry shipped 3.49 million 20-pound box equivalents of Sweethearts, 17 percent of the 20.97 million box crop, compared to 3.36 million boxes of Bings at 16 percent.
“This year the numbers show clearly that Sweetheart is now king — at least for a year,” Fruit Commission president B.J. Thurlby said in the update.
That’s a rapid change. Just two years previously, Bing outpaced Sweethearts 18 percent to 10 percent.
Breaking down the volume by variety is an inexact science, however. Many buyers simply ask for the label “dark sweet cherries,” which accounted for 7.08 million boxes, or 34 percent of the crop. Bings and Sweethearts qualify for that category, thus, both varieties likely comprised even higher percentages of the total.
In 2016, Skeena, Chelan and Rainier varieties followed in with 8, 7 and 6 percent, respectively.
The Yakima, Washington, based Fruit Commission manages the Northwest Cherry Growers, which markets cherries from five Northwest states, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Montana.