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Cherry Tree

Cherry Tree

Sour Cherry Tree

Sour Cherry

Part Number: CHE-8713-9871
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Sour Cherry (Prunus cerasus)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Prunus cerasus, or the sour cherry, is a species of Prunus in the subgenus Cerasus (cherries), native to much of Europe and southwest Asia. It is closely related to the wild cherry (P. avium), but has a fruit that is more acidic.

The tree is smaller than the wild cherry (growing to a height of 4–10 m), has twiggy branches, and its crimson-to-near-black cherries are borne upon shorter stalks.

There are two varieties of the sour cherry: the dark-red morello cherry and the lighter-red amarelle cherry.

Origins and cultivation

Prunus cerasus is thought to have originated as a natural hybrid between Prunus avium and Prunus fruticosa in the Caucasus Mountains, Anatolia or Eastern Europe where the two species come into contact. Prunus fruticosa is believed to have given it its smaller size and sour tasting fruit. The hybrids then stabilised and interbred to form a new, distinct species.

Cultivated sour cherries were selected from wild specimens of Prunus cerasus and the doubtfully distinct P. acida from around the Caspian and Black Seas, and were known to the Greeks in 300 BC. They were also extremely popular with Persians and the Romans who introduced them into Britain long before the 1st century AD. The fruit remains popular in modern-day Iran.

In Britain, their cultivation was popularised in the 16th century in the time of Henry VIII. They became a popular crop amongst Kentish growers, and by 1640 over two dozen named cultivars were recorded. In the Americas, Massachusetts colonists planted the first sour cherry, 'Kentish Red', when they arrived.

Before the Second World War there were more than fifty cultivars of sour cherry in cultivation in England; today, however, few are grown commercially, and despite the continuation of named cultivars such as 'Kentish Red', 'Amarelles', 'Griottes' and 'Flemish', only the generic Morello is offered by most nurseries. This is a late-flowering variety, and thus misses more frosts than its sweet counterpart and is therefore a more reliable cropper. The Morello cherry ripens in mid to late summer, towards the end of August in southern England. It is self fertile, and would be a good pollenizer for other varieties if it did not flower so late in the season.

Worldwide sour cherry production

Sour cherries require similar cultivation conditions to pears, that is, they prefer a rich, well-drained, moist soil, although they demand more nitrogen and water than sweet cherries. Trees will do badly if waterlogged, but have greater tolerance of poor drainage than sweet varieties. As with sweet cherries, Morellos are traditionally cultivated by budding onto strong growing rootstocks, which produce trees too large for most gardens, although newer dwarfing rootstocks such as Colt and Gisella are now available. During spring, flowers should be protected, and trees weeded, mulched and sprayed with natural seaweed solution. This is also the time when any required pruning should be carried out (note that cherries should not be pruned during the dormant winter months). Morello cherry trees fruit on younger wood than sweet varieties, and thus can be pruned harder. They are usually grown as standards, but can be fan trained, cropping well even on cold walls, or grown as low bushes.

Sour cherries suffer fewer pests and diseases than sweet cherries, although they are prone to heavy fruit losses from birds. In summer, fruit should be protected with netting. When harvesting fruit, they should be cut from the tree rather than risking damage by pulling the stalks. Morello cherries freeze well and retain their flavour superbly.

Unlike most sweet cherry varieties, sour cherries are self fertile (sometimes inaccurately referred to as self-pollinating) or self pollenizing. Two implications of this are that seeds generally run true to the cultivar, and that much smaller pollinator populations are needed because pollen only has to be moved within individual flowers. In areas where pollinators are scarce, growers find that stocking beehives in orchards improves yields.

Culinary use

Sour cherries, unlike their sweet counterpart, are too sour for some people's tastes to be eaten fresh, although Europeans and Middle Easterners regularly do so. They are used (also in dried form) in cooking, especially in soups and pork dishes, cakes, tarts, and pies. Typically sugar is added to balance the acidity and bring out the fruit's aroma and flavor.

Sour cherries are a common ingredient in a variety of liqueurs, desserts, preserves and drinks are made with sour cherries or sour cherry syrup. In Greece and Cyprus, sour cherries are especially prized for making spoon sweet by slowly boiling pitted sour cherries and sugar; the syrup thereof is used for vyssináda, a beverage made by diluting the syrup with ice-cold water. A particular use of sour cherries is in the production of kriek lambic, a cherry-flavored variety of a naturally fermented beer made in Belgium.

Cherry Trees

The cherry is the fruit of many plants of the genus Prunus, and is a fleshy drupe (stone fruit). The cherry fruits of commerce are usually obtained from a limited number of species, including especially cultivars of the wild cherry, Prunus avium. The name 'cherry' also refers to the cherry tree, and is sometimes applied to almonds and visually similar flowering trees in the genus Prunus, as in "ornamental cherry", "cherry blossom", etc.


Many cherries are members of the subgenus Cerasus, which is distinguished by having the flowers in small corymbs of several together (not singly, nor in racemes), and by having smooth fruit with only a weak groove or none along one side. The subgenus is native to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, with two species in America, three in Europe, and the remainder in Asia. Other cherry fruits are members of subgenus Padus. Cherry trees with low exposure to light tend to have a bigger leaf size so they can intercept all light possible. Cherry trees with high exposure to light tend to have thicker leaves to concentrate light and have a higher photosynthetic capacity.

Most eating cherries are derived from either Prunus avium, the wild cherry (sometimes called the sweet cherry), or from Prunus cerasus, the sour cherry.

Etymology and antiquity

The native range of the wild cherry extends through most of Europe, western Asia and parts of northern Africa, and the fruit has been consumed throughout its range since prehistoric times. A cultivated cherry is recorded as having been brought to Rome by Lucius Licinius Lucullus from northeastern Anatolia, modern day Turkey, also known as the Pontus region, in 72 BC.

A form of cherry was introduced into England at Teynham, near Sittingbourne in Kent by order of Henry VIII, who had tasted them in Flanders.

The English word cherry, French cerise and Spanish cereza all come from the classical Greek through the Latin cerasum, thus the ancient Roman place name Cerasus, today a city in northern Turkey Giresun from which the cherry was first exported to Europe.

Wildlife value

Cherry trees also provide food for the caterpillars of several Lepidoptera.


The cultivated forms are of the species wild cherry (P. avium) to which most cherry cultivars belong, and the sour cherry (P. cerasus), which is used mainly for cooking. Both species originate in Europe and western Asia; they do not cross-pollinate. Some other species, although having edible fruit, are not grown extensively for consumption, except in northern regions where the two main species will not grow. Irrigation, spraying, labor, and their propensity to damage from rain and hail make cherries relatively expensive. Nonetheless, demand is high for the fruit. In commercial production, cherries are harvested by using a mechanized 'shaker'. Hand picking is also widely used to harvest the fruit to avoid damage to both fruit and trees.

Growing season

Cherries have a very short growing season and can grow in most temperate latitudes. The peak season for cherries is in the summer. In Australia, they are usually at their peak in late December, in southern Europe in June, in North America in June, in south British Columbia (Canada) in July to mid-August, and in the UK in mid-July. In many parts of North America, they are among the first tree fruits to ripen.

'Kordia' is an early variety which ripens during the beginning of December, 'Lapins peak' ripens near the end of December, and 'Sweethearts' finish slightly later in the Southern Hemisphere.

Like most temperate-latitude trees, cherry seeds require exposure to cold to germinate (a mechanism the tree evolved to prevent germination during the autumn, which would then result in the seedling being killed by winter temperatures). The pits are planted in the autumn (after first being chilled) and seedlings emerge in the spring. A cherry tree will take three to four years to produce its first crop of fruit, and seven years to attain full maturity. Because of the cold-weather requirement, none of the Prunus family can grow in tropical climates.

Annual world production (as of 2007) of cultivated cherry fruit is about two million tonnes. Around 40% of world production originates in Europe and around 13% in the United States.

Top Cherry Producing Nations - 2009 (in thousand metric tons)
  1.  Turkey     417.7
  2.  United States     390.7
  3.  Iran     225.0
  4.  Italy     116.2
  5.  Spain     96.4
  6.  Syria     78.3
  7.  Russia     69.0
  8.  Romania     67.9
  9.  Uzbekistan     67.0
  10.  Chile     56.0
  11.  France     53.6
  12.  Ukraine     53.0
  13.  Poland     50.5
  14.  Greece     48.0
  15.  Germany     39.5
  16.  Lebanon     34.7
  17.  Austria     30.3
  18.  Serbia     29.2
  19.  China     27.0
  20.  Japan     18.0
  21.  Bulgaria     17.4
  22.  Armenia     15.0
  23.  Canada     14.6
  24.  Australia     13.7
  25.  Kazakhstan     13.0
  26.  India     12.7
  27.  Portugal     11.2
  28.  Albania     10.9
  29.  Bosnia and Herzegovina     10.7
  30.  Switzerland     10.2
  31.  Moldova     9.0
  32.  Hungary     8.1
  33.  Morocco     7.4
  34.  Croatia     7.1
  35.  Azerbaijan     6.9
  36. World Total     2,196.1
Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations


Major commercial cherry orchards in West Asia and Europe are in Turkey (mainly Anatolia), Italy and Spain, and to a smaller extent in the Baltic States and southern Scandinavia.

North America

In the United States, most sweet cherries are grown in Washington, California, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Important sweet cherry cultivars include 'Bing', 'Brooks', 'Tulare', 'King', 'Sweetheart', and 'Rainier'. In addition, the 'Lambert' variety is grown on the eastern side of Flathead Lake in northwestern Montana. Both Oregon and Michigan provide light-colored 'Royal Ann' ('Napoleon'; alternately 'Queen Anne') cherries for the maraschino cherry process. Most sour (also called tart) cherries are grown in Michigan, followed by Utah, New York, and Washington. Additionally, native and non-native cherries grow well in Canada (Ontario and British Columbia). Sour cherries include 'Nanking' and 'Evans'. Traverse City, Michigan claims to be the "Cherry Capital of the World", hosting a National Cherry Festival and making the world's largest cherry pie. The specific region of northern Michigan known for tart cherry production is referred to as the "Traverse Bay" region.


In Australia, cherries are grown in all the states except for the Northern Territory. The major producing regions are located in the temperate areas within New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. Western Australia has limited production in the elevated parts in southwest of the state. Key production areas include Young, Orange and Bathurst in New South Wales, Wandin, the Goulburn and Murray valley areas in Victoria, the Adelaide Hills region in South Australia, and the Huon and Derwent Valleys in Tasmania.

Key commercial varieties in order of seasonality include 'Empress', 'Merchant', 'Supreme', 'Ron's seedling', 'Chelan', 'Ulster', 'Van', 'Bing', 'Stella', 'Nordwunder', 'Lapins', 'Simone', 'Regina', 'Kordia' and 'Sweetheart'. New varieties are being introduced, including the late season 'Staccato' and early season 'Sequoia'. The Australian Cherry Breeding program is developing a series of new varieties which are under testing evaluation.

The New South Wales town of Young is called the "Cherry Capital of Australia" and hosts the National Cherry Festival.

Nutritional value

Cherries (sweet, edible parts) Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
  • Energy     263 kJ (63 kcal)
  • Carbohydrates     16 g
  • - Sugars     13 g
  • - Dietary fibre     2 g
  • Fat     0.2 g
  • Protein     1.1 g
  • Vitamin C     7 mg (8%)
  • Iron     0.4 mg (3%)
Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Cherries contain anthocyanins, the red pigment in berries. Cherry anthocyanins have been shown to reduce pain and inflammation in rats. Anthocyanins are also potent antioxidants under active research for a variety of potential health benefits. According to a study funded by the Cherry Marketing Institute, presented at the Experimental Biology 2008 meeting in San Diego, rats that received whole tart cherry powder mixed into a high-fat diet did not gain as much weight or build up as much body fat, and their blood showed much lower levels of inflammation indicators that have been linked to heart disease and diabetes. In addition, they had significantly lower blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides than the other rats.

Other information

Dried cherry fruit infused with raspberry concentrate are sold commercially under the name razzcherries. The wood of some cherry species is especially esteemed for the manufacture of fine furniture.




P. cerasus

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