Cherries are the fruit of plants known as the Prunus and is a fleshy drupe or a stone fruit. It is unusual as the fruit does not have a groove like a plum. Cherries grow well in most of Europe, Western Asia and parts of North Africa.
The cultivated Cherry is recorded as having been brought to Rome by Lucius Licinius Lucullus from North Eastern Anatolia. 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.
Cherries have a very short growing season and can grow in most temperate latitudes. They blossom in April and the peak season for the fruit is in Southern Europe is June. A Cherry tree will take three to four years to produce its first crop of fruit and seven years to attain full maturity. Sweet Cherries are usually grown as small open trees, or trained against walls or fences. They can also be grown in large containers, but they dislike shallow, sandy or badly drained soil. Demand is high for this fruit as it can either be eaten fresh, or made into jam or pie fillings. 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.
Cherry trees provide food for the caterpillars of several moths and butterflies. 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 usually is the Black Cherry Aphid 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. Cherry trees are susceptible to bacterial/cytospora canker, brown rot, root rot, crown rot and to several viruses.
Cherries can be expensive, but at this time of year they are fairly cheap, especially on the markets. They are not only good to eat, but they can be good for you. Anthocyanins in Cherries appear to have a marked anti-inflammatory action. These compounds seem to be highly effective in treating gout, a condition that causes painful swelling in joints. Cherries are also one of the few food sources of the hormone melatonin, which regulates sleep patterns. Compared to most other fruits, Cherries are low in sugar, which makes them an ideal choice for people who love fruit and want to lose weight.