Buy cherries that have been kept cool and moist, as flavor and texture both suffer at warm temperatures. Take a few cherries at a time in your hand and select only the best. If possible, taste one.
Good cherries should be relatively large (often an inch or more in diameter), glossy, plump, hard, and dark-colored for their variety. Good Bing cherries, for example, range from a purplish-mahogany color to nearly black. The stems of the cherries should be fresh and green; darkened stems are a sign of either old age or poor storage conditions.
Reject undersized fruits or those that are soft or flabby. Check carefully for bruises or cuts on the dark surface, and toss back cherries that are sticky through juice leakage. If you find many damaged fruits, consider shopping elsewhere, as a number of spoiled cherries in a bin will start the others on the road to decay.
Sour cherries sold fresh should be plump, firm, and a bright scarlet color.