cherry

cherry

[cher-ee]
cherry, name for several species of trees or shrubs of the genus Prunus (a few are sometimes classed as Padus) of the family Rosaceae (rose family) and for their fruits. The small, round red to black fruits are botanically designated drupes, or stone fruits, as are those of the closely related peach, apricot, and plum. The cherry is one of the most commonly grown home-orchard fruits. About 600 varieties are cultivated, practically all derived from two species—P. avium (sweet cherries) and P. cerasus (sour cherries). Both are believed to be native to Asia Minor and have long been cultivated; they were mentioned in the writings of the ancients. Sour cherries are hardier and more easily grown than sweet cherries and are mostly self-fertile, while many sweet cherries must be cross-pollinated to bear well. The fruit is popular raw, in preserves, and in pies; cherry cider and liqueurs are also made. Europe is the largest producing area. Several species of the flowering cherry, many native to East Asia, are cultivated as weeping or erect trees for their beautiful, usually double flowers. The Japanese make a national festival of cherry-blossom time; the city of Tokyo presented a number of trees to Washington, D.C., where they have become a popular spring attraction. The species of American wild cherry include the chokecherry, pin cherry, and wild, black cherry. These have smaller fruits than the cultivated cherries and are seldom used except for jelly. Wood of the wild, black cherry, or rum cherry (P. serotina), usually reddish in color, is fine grained and of high quality. It takes a high polish and is prized for cabinetwork. The aromatic bark and leaves contain hydrocyanic acid, characteristic of many cherries. The cherry laurel (P. laurocerasus or Laurocerasus officinalis) is an Old World evergreen species cultivated elsewhere in many varieties as an ornamental. The leaves are sometimes used as a flavoring and in making cherry laurel water. The American cherry laurel (P. or L. caroliniana), called mock orange in the South, is similar but larger. For the cherry plum, or myrobalan, see plum. Cherries are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Rosales, family Rosaceae.

One of several varieties of shrub or small tree (Prunus virginiana) of the rose family, native to North America. Though it is aptly named for the astringent, acidic taste of its reddish cherries, its fruit may be made into jelly and preserves. The stones and wilted foliage are poisonous. The trees often form dense thickets on moist soils. They are frequently attacked and defoliated by eastern tent caterpillars. Foul-scented white flowers are produced in hanging spikes, and the slender brown twigs also have an unpleasant odour and a bitter taste.

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Sour cherry (Prunus cerasus).

Any of various trees of the genus Prunus and their edible fruits. Most are native to the Northern Hemisphere, where they are widely grown. Three types are grown mainly for their fruit: sweet cherries (P. avium); sour, or tart, cherries (P. cerasus); and, to a much lesser extent, dukes (crosses of sweet and sour cherries). Sweet-cherry trees are large, and their fruit is generally heart-shaped to nearly globular, varies in colour from yellow through red to nearly black, and has a low acid content. Sour-cherry trees are smaller and bear fruit that is round to oblate, generally dark red, and more acidic. Dukes are intermediate in both tree and fruit characteristics. The wood of some cherry species is especially esteemed for the manufacture of fine furniture. Ornamental varieties selected for the beauty of their flowers are a common feature of gardens.

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This article is about the Cherry berry also classified as fruit, for the ornamental tree, See Cherry Blossom.

The word cherry refers to a fleshy fruit (drupe) that contains a single stony seed. The cherry belongs to the family Rosaceae, genus Prunus, along with almonds, peaches, plums, apricots and bird cherries. The subgenus, Cerasus, is distinguished by having the flowers in small corymbs of several together (not singly, nor in racemes), and by having a 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. The word "cherry" comes from the French word "cerise", which comes in turn from the Latin words cerasum and Cerasus.

Background

The cherry is generally understood to have been brought to Rome from northeastern Anatolia, historically known as the Pontus region, in 72 BC. The city of Giresun in present-day Turkey was known to the ancient Greeks as Choerades or Pharnacia and later as Kerasous or Cerasus, < Kerason < Kerasounta < Kerasus "horn" (for peninsula) in Greek + ounta "Greek toponomical suffix". The name later mutated into Kerasunt (sometimes written Kérasounde or Kerassunde).

The English word cherry, French cerise, Spanish cereza, and Southern Italian dialect cerasa (standard Italian ciliegia) all come from Classical Greek κέρασος "cherry", which has been identified with Cerasus. The cherry was first exported to Europe from Cerasus in Roman times.

The Wild Cherry (P. avium) has given rise to the Sweet Cherry to which most cherry cultivars belong, and the Sour Cherry (P. cerasus) is used mainly for cooking. Both species originate in Europe and western Asia; they do not cross-pollinate each other. The 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, spaying, labor, and their propensity to damage from rain and hail make cherries relatively expensive. Nonetheless, there is high demand for the fruit.

Major commercial cherry orchards in Europe extend from the Iberian peninsula east to Asia Minor, and to a smaller extent may also be grown in the Baltic States and southern Scandinavia. In the United States, most sweet cherries are grown in Washington, California and Oregon. Important sweet cherry cultivars include "Bing", "Brooks", "Tulare", "King", and "Rainier". Both Oregon and Michigan provide light-coloured "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 Cherry. 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 that is known the world over for tart cherry production is referred to as the "Traverse Bay" region. Farms in this region grown many varieties of cherries and companies like Traverse Bay Farms sell the fruit of the region. Likewise in Australia the New South Wales town of Young is famous nationwide as the "Cherry Capital of Australia", and also hosts the internationally famous National Cherry Festival. Popular varieties include the "Montmorency", "Morello", "North Star", "Early Richmond", "Titans" and "Lamberts".

Cherries have a very long growing season and can grow anywhere, including the great cold of the tundra. In Australia they are usually at their peak around Christmas time, in southern Europe in June, in America in June, and in the UK in mid July, always in the summer season. In many parts of North America they are among the first tree fruits to ripen.

Annual world production (as of 2007) of domesticated cherries is about 2 million tonnes. Around 40% of world production originates in Europe and around 13% in the United States. The US is the world's second largest single country producer, after Turkey.

Flowers

Besides the fruit, cherries also have attractive flowers, and they are commonly planted for their flower display in spring; several of the Asian cherries are particularly noted for their flower displays. The Japanese sakura in particular are a national symbol celebrated in the yearly Hanami festival. Many flowering cherry cultivars (known as 'ornamental cherries') have the stamens and pistils replaced by additional petals ("double" flowers), so are sterile and do not bear fruit. They are grown purely for their flowers and decorative value. The most common of these sterile cherries is the cultivar 'Kanzan'. Cherry trees provide food for the caterpillars of several Lepidoptera. See List of Lepidoptera which feed on Prunus.

Cherries

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 presented at the Experimental Biology 2008 meeting in San Diego, rats that received whole tart cherry powder mixed into a high-fat diet didn’t gain as much weight or build up as much body fat, and their blood showed much lower levels of indicators of the kind of inflammation that has been linked to heart disease and diabetes. In addition, they had significantly lower blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides than the other rats.

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