Friday, February 25, 2005

Apple #41: Black Cherries

I'm having some black cherry ice cream. Right now, as I'm typing this. Very tasty. The best part, of course, is the huge hunks of black cherries.

  • Black cherries grow on the black cherry tree, which is native to the northeastern US, the Appalachian mountain states, and in higher elevations in New Mexico and Arizona, and south through Texas and Mexico down to Guatemala. They're also kind of taking over Europe.
  • The trees can grow to be 100 feet tall, but most of the time, they're around 40-60 feet tall.
  • The trees do not like shade, which gets them the "intolerant" label from growers, though they tend to pop up in any sunny place where birds drop their seeds.
  • When crushed, the leaves of the tree smell like black cherry soda.
  • The leaves and bark of the tree contain a kind of cyanide that was once used in cough medicines and ointments. Because of the cyanide, the twigs and bark can be lethal to horses and cattle if they eat a lot of it. It also makes the tree smell like almonds.
  • In the spring, the tree makes long clusters of white flowers that the bees like.
  • The fruit is generally ripe and ready for picking in late June through October.
  • The tree produces fruit each year, but it will make an especially abundant crop once every 3 or 4 years.
  • Birds and deer and rabbits and skunks and all kinds of wildlife like to eat the fruit. Tent caterpillars like to make their creepy tents in the tree, which supposedly doesn't hurt it.
  • The wood is a dark reddish hardwood, used in making furniture.
  • The cherry itself is large, and the flesh is a rich, dark purple, almost black. Some people say there is some sourness in with the sweetness, but I don't taste the sourness much.
  • Black cherries are often used to make jams and wine. You can also warm them with syrup and put them on pancakes, or you can heat them up with brandy and put them over ice cream.

Miami of Ohio's Dragonfly project, Seed Dispersal,
Black Cherry Trees
Floridata catalog, Prunus serotina
Tree's entry on the
Wild Black Cherry tree
Virginia Tech Forestry Department, Prunus serotina fact sheet
Purdue Veterinary School, toxic plants, the
Wild Black Cherry
Images from
A-One-A Produce Specialties and the Sunset Beach Hotel menu

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