Fresh, frozen, as jam, in pie, red, white or purple we Canadians love cherries. Cherries are a delicious source of vitamins A, B, and C, folic acid, iron and calcium as well as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.
Cherry trees are part of the rose family and are directly related to pears, apricots, nectarines, peaches and almonds. Trees within the rose family typically produce beautiful flowers that turn into fruit containing a large seed. We often refer to this kind of fruit as stone fruit.
Cherry blossoms are comprised of many little flowers that grow in a bunch. This allows each flower cluster to grow 2-3 cherries, and hence a cherry tree can produce approximately 7000 cherries per season.
Cherries come in 2 different categories:
- Sweet Cherries are eaten fresh as they are quite juicy and flavourful. The most commonly known sweet cherry is the Bing cherry, recognizable by it dark red/black skin and firm texture.
- Sour Cherries are grown for processing. The most commonly known sour cherry is the Montmorency cherry. Montmorency’s are smaller, paler and have much lower sugar content than the sweet variety. Cooking is what truly brings out a sour cherry’s flavour making them popular for pie fillings and preserves.
Canada’s Contribution to Cherry Varietals:
- In 1940 Dr. Kerr, from the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) began researching a Canadian cold climate cherry. He created The Mongolian cherry: a hardy, tiny, very sour cherry that could tolerate cold temperatures.
- Between 1970-1980 U of S starting crossing hybrids from Siberia and the U.S. with the Mongolian cherry. In 1999 the first hybrid dwarf cherry bush the “SK Carmine Jewel” was released. It was a hardy, short stature plant, that produced high quality fruit, stronger and sweeter than traditional sour cherries.
- In 2004 more varieties followed with Juliet, Romeo, Crimson Passion, Valentine and Cupid varieties.
- Most Canadian sweet cherry production is from British Columbia which has devoted 75% of its planted area to sweet cherries.
- Ontario has traditionally been Canada’s sour cherry producing region.
- Prairie Provinces are coming up fast in sour cherry production mainly because of the hybrid dwarf bushes that have been created by the University of Saskatchewan.
- Cherry tree branches are so thick they have to be shaken by machine it can’t be done by hand.
- Cherry trees can survive and produce fruit for 100 years.
- Cherries are used for natural food colouring.
- Sweet cherry trees require cross pollination whereas sour cherry trees are self-fruiting.
- In the late 1800’s Auguste Escoffier, a famous French chef prepared a very special dessert in honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebration called Cherries Jubilee and it is still enjoyed today.
Living Loving Local Recipes
Here is just one of the many delicious recipes we are celebrating cherries with this month: