Sweet Cherry Fruit
iPhoneOgraphy – 06 Jul 2016 (Day 188/366)
A cherry is the fruit of many plants of the genus Prunus, and is a fleshy drupe (stone fruit).
The cherry fruits of commerce usually are obtained from a limited number of species such as cultivars of the sweet 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. Wild Cherry may refer to any of the cherry species growing outside of cultivation, although Prunus avium is often referred to specifically by the name “wild cherry” in the British Isles.
The indigenous range of the sweet 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, as well as the apricot, is recorded as having been brought to Rome by Lucius Licinius Lucullus from northeastern Anatolia, 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. Cherry trees also provide food for the caterpillars of several Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies).
The English word cherry, French cerise, Spanish cereza, and Turkish kiraz all derive from the classical Greek through the Latin cerasum, which referred to the ancient Greek place name Cerasus, today the city of Giresun in northern Turkey in the ancient Pontus region, from which the cherry was first exported to Europe. The ancient Greek word “cherry” itself is thought to be derived from a pre-Greek Anatolian language.
The cultivated forms are of the species sweet 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.
Common rootstocks include Mazzard, Mahaleb, Colt, and Gisela Series, a dwarfing rootstock that produces trees significantly smaller than others, only 8 to 10 feet (2.5 to 3 meters) tall. Sour cherries require no pollenizer while few sweet varieties are self-fertile.
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 genus can grow in tropical climates.
Cherries have a short growing season and can grow in most temperate latitudes. Cherries blossom in April (in the Northern Hemisphere) and the peak season for cherries is in the summer. In Southern Europe in June, in North America in June, in England in mid-July, and in south British Columbia (Canada) in June to mid-August. In many parts of North America, they are among the first tree fruits to flower and ripen in mid-Spring.
In the Southern Hemisphere, cherries are usually at their peak in late December and are widely associated with Christmas. ‘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.
Generally, cherry trees are a difficult fruit tree to grow and keep alive. They do not tolerate wetness. In Europe, the first visible pest in the growing season soon after blossom (in April in western Europe) usually is the black cherry aphid (“cherry blackfly”, Myzus cerasi), which causes leaves at the tips of branches to curl, with the blackfly colonies exuding a sticky secretion which promotes fungal growth on the leaves and fruit. At the fruiting stage in June/July (Europe), the cherry fruit fly (Rhagoletis cingulata and Rhagoletis cerasi) lays its eggs in the immature fruit, whereafter its larvae feed on the cherry flesh and exit through a small hole (about 1mm diameter), which in turn is the entry point for fungal infection of the cherry fruit after rainfall. In addition cherry trees are susceptible to bacterial canker, cytospora canker, brown rot, root rot, crown rot, and to several viruses.