From now until mid-August is fresh-cherry time, which means, at first, the pleasure of eating out of hand the large ripe Bings; the sweet, golden Royal Annes; and, for those who can find them, the tart, sour cherries.
After the initial treat of this wonderful, first-taste-of-summer fruit, there will be cherry pies, cakes, tarts, strudels, sauces, and a variety of other cooked dishes. One of the first decisions when it comes to cooking fresh cherries is whether to pit or not to pit the fruit.
It depends somewhat on the energy of the cook, but, aside from labor, the disadvantage to pitting or stoning is that some recipes just don't come out right after the pits or stones have been removed. This splits, breaks, or mashes the fruit somewhat, and a certain amount of the juice is bound to be sacrificed.
To avoid the nuisance, some cooks use one of the gadgets used for stoning olives, and in France and other European countries the pits are often left in.
This isn't practical for recipes that include pastry or cake or those for children, however, so use your own judgment according to the recipe.
White or ''golden'' fresh cherries are sweet, but not as easy to find. The Napoleon, or Royal Anne, is amber to yellow, with a red blush. It is juicy with a mild, but slightly acidic, flavor. Dark cherries can be sweet, acidic, or in between.
When I was in England visiting Claudia Roden, she mentioned a fine combination of cheese and fruit. She mixes equal portions of goat cheese and creme fraiche, and serves the mixture with the fresh ripe cherries - sometimes adding a bit of sugar.
In ''A Book of Middle Eastern Food'' (Knopf), Mrs. Roden has a marvelous recipe for Persian Lamb with Apples and Sour Cherries, and another for Sour Black Cherry Jam, or Wishna, which can be served as a dessert with thick cream.
There are several ways to freeze cherries, but the easiest is to wash them in ice water, drain, and pack with stems intact in freezer containers. Shake each container to pack the cherries closely, then cover tightly and freeze.