The Difference Between Tart Cherries and Sweet Cherries

Lots of people might think a cherry is just a cherry, but a cherry expert knows better. The differences between types of cherries might not be as well known as the differences in apples (red apples, green apples, sour apples, etc.), but there definitely ARE differences.

Tart Cherry

Let’s start with the visual differences between tart cherries compared to sweet cherries. Sweet cherries are typically a little larger than tart cherries and often have an almost heart shape to them. Sweet cherries can range in color from being golden with hints of red to a dark red, almost purple color. Tart cherries are typically a bright red color (in the late spring) or a distinct dark red.

Now let’s get into the differences that you can’t see with the naked eye. Tart cherries are renowned for their antioxidant properties, and the same compounds that gives them their unique color actually gives them their antioxidant properties too. The compounds we are referring to are called anthoncyanins. In fact, a Michigan State University found 3 powerful anthocyanins in tart cherries! Sweet cherries can make great snacks and are used in a number of different recipes, but they lack the the antioxidant properties found in tart cherries.

Another major difference between the two are where they are primarily grown. Sweet cherries can be grown in a number of places in the United States, where tart cherries are primarily grown in Michigan. In fact, Michigan is often referred to as the heart of America’s “fruit belt”.

Sweet Cherries

Now you know the differences between a tart cherry and a sweet cherry!