Flowering early in spring with decorative white or pale pink blossoms, cherries later develop from flowers pollinated by honeybees. The trees need a fertile, well-draining soil that is moist and a pronounced winter chilling to ensure the flowers appear the next spring. Sweet cherry trees grow best in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 5 through 7, while sour cherry trees are more hardy, growing in zones 4 through 8. Sour cherry trees also bloom a little later in spring and are not affected as much by frosts.
While there are many cherry trees native to the New World, cherry trees grown for tasty fruits have historical origins in Europe and extreme western Asia. The most important historical year for American cherry production is 1847. The Lewelling brothers moved from Iowa to Oregon with hundreds of cherry tree seedlings. Eventually they selected a cherry tree varieties they named Bing and another Lambert, which remain two of the most popular eating cherries in the country today, according to "Economic Botany: Plants in Our World."
Cherry fruits are grouped according to taste. Sweet cherries, most often derived from Prunus avium, are eaten fresh, canned, candied or squeezed into juice. Bing is a famous variety of sweet cherry. Sour cherries, developed from Prunus cerasus, have much more tart flavors, and often are called tart or pie cherries. Montmorency is a famous sour cherry variety. Overall, there are more varieties of sweet cherries than sour, but in the United States, more sour cherries are grown since they tend to be easier and less demanding to cultivate, according to the "Sunset Western Gardening Book."
We quickly associate the color red with a cherry fruit, but through decades of breeding, the ripe color of both sweet and sour cherries is much more diverse. Dark red sweet cherry varieties include Bing, Lapins, and Hardy Giant. A bright red selection is Sweetheart. Black to purplish black-skinned sweet cherries are Sam, Republican, Black Tartarian, Angela, Vandalay, Lambert and Stella. Yellow fruits grow upon White Gold and Sweet Ann trees. Sour cherries more often ripen to brighter red skin tones. Surefire, Kansas Sweet, Meteor and Early Richmond yield bright red fruits, while North Star, Montmorency and English Morello have deeper red fruits. North Star has a tart yellow flesh.
The online source fatfreekitchen.com provides the nutritional value of 100 g of cherries. This serving size provides 52 calories and 16 g of sugar in a 86 percent water flesh. Forty micrograms of vitamin A and 20 mg of vitamin C are supplied, and only trace amounts of the trio of B vitamins.
World Cherry Production
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. published a commodity report in 2007 on top producing nations; this was the most recent year published at time of this article in 2010. The top five producers based on metric tons produced in that year are, in descending order: Turkey, the United States, Iran, Italy and the Russian Federation.
Originally a bitter Italian liqueur, maraschino now refers to a sweet cordial syrup. Today, maraschino cherries are made from sweet cherries such as the Royal Ann (Napolean). The fruits are bleached, pitted and soaked in sugar solution and then dyed with red food coloring and flavored with nut or other extracts.