Prunus cerasus (sour cherry, tart cherry, or dwarf cherry) is a
Prunus in the subgenus Cerasus (cherries), native to much
Europe and southwest Asia. It is closely related to the sweet
Prunus avium), but has a fruit that is more acidic.
The tree is smaller than the sweet 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 several
varieties of the sour cherry: the dark-red morello cherry and the
lighter-red varieties including the amarelle cherry, and the
popular Montmorency cherry. The
Montmorency cherry is the most popular
type of sour cherry. The reason for its popularity is its use in
baking and recipe creation. including cherry pies, cherry desserts
and other cherry-based recipes.
1 Origins and cultivation
3 See also
Origins and cultivation
Illustration of Morello Cherry
Prunus cerasus is thought to have originated as a natural hybrid
Prunus avium and
Prunus fruticosa in the
Iranian Plateau or
Europe where the two species come into contact. Prunus
fruticosa is believed to have provided 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
Massachusetts colonists planted the first sour cherry,
'Kentish Red', when they arrived.
A blooming sour cherry tree
Second World War
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, toward 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.
Ripe sour cherries (Somogy, Hungary)
Ripe sour cherries and their leaves (Karaj, Iran)
A sour cherry Beauty Sheet
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
Unlike most sweet cherry varieties, sour cherries are self fertile or
self pollenizing (sometimes inaccurately referred to as
self-pollinating). 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.
Some cultivars of sour cherry trees, such as Montmorency and North
Star, have been documented to perform better than other cherry trees
Front Range region.
Top 10 sour cherry producers in 2012
* = Unofficial figure [ ] = Official data A = May include
official, semi-official or estimated data
F = FAO estimate Im = FAO data based on imputation methodology M =
Data not available
Source: UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
Kriek lambic is infused with sour cherries
Dried sour cherries are used in cooking including soups, pork dishes,
cakes, tarts, and pies.
Sour cherries or sour cherry syrup are used in liqueurs and drinks. In
Greece and Cyprus, sour cherries are especially prized for
making spoon sweets by slowly boiling pitted sour cherries and sugar;
the syrup thereof is used for vişne şurubu or 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.
Fruit tree forms
Fruit tree propagation
Ginjinha, a Portuguese liqueur made from Sour Cherry
Griotte de Kleparow
Kriek, a traditional Belgian beer made with sour cherries
Marasca cherry (
Prunus cerasus var. marasca)
Amarena cherry (
Prunus cerasus var. amarena)
North Star cherry, a dwarf variety
Pruning fruit trees
Sour cherry soup
Syzygium corynanthum, an Australian rainforest tree also known as the
Vişinată, a Romanian liqueur made with sour cherries (vişina in
Vişne, Vişne Receli is a sour cherry preserve and Vişne Suyu is a
popular fruit juice in Turkey
Wikimedia Commons has media related to
^ illustration from Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen
Plant List: A Working List of All
Plant Species". Retrieved
January 27, 2014.
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS
Database. USDA. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
^ "BSBI List 2007". Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived
from the original (xls) on 2015-01-25. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
^ Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language.
Springfield, Massachusetts: G. & C. Merriam Co., 1913. See
amarelle at p. 67.
^ Stocks, Christopher (2009). "Britain's forgotten fruits". Flora. 1:
^ "Major Food And Agricultural Commodities And Producers – Countries
By Commodity". Fao.org. Retrieved Feb 3, 2015.
^ Jackson, Michael (1997). The Simon Schuster Pocket Guide to Beer.
Simon and Schuster. p. 80. ISBN 978-0-684-84381-0.
Sweet (Bigaroon, Mazzard)
Royal Ann (Napoleon)
Sour (Amarelle, Morello)
Griotte de Kleparow
Plant List: rjp-696