Sour cherries, also known as tart or pie cherries, add exceptional flavor to pies, cakes, breads, jams, jellies and other recipes. Amarelle varieties produce a lighter flesh and light to pink juice. Morello varieties are bright to dark red and contain dark juices. Sour cherries, which are self-pollinating, grow best in well-draining soil with full sun and will survive up to 25 years with proper maintenance.
The Early Richmond cherry tree is a heavy producer that offers thin-skinned, bright red fruits that ripen earlier than most varieties. It grows 10 to 15 feet tall and has a spread of 10 to 14 feet. Hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 8, the Early Richmond fruit is crack resistant and perfect for canning, juicing, pies and other baked goods.
Montmorency is commonly grown for mass production, growing fruit with shiny red skin, bright yellow flesh and clear juice starting in late July. This variety is hardy from zone 4 to 8, grows from 8 to 15 feet high with a 10- to 20-foot spread and is able to withstand colder temperatures better than other varieties. The Montmorency cherry is perfect for pies, preserves and as a candied snack.
The Meteor cherry tree was created in 1952 at the University of Minnesota. This dwarf variety grows 8 to 12 feet in height with an 8- to 12-foot span, with compact, spurry growth that shields the fruit from birds and sun. This hybrid, hardy in zones 3 to 8, is spot leaf resistant and early to fruit. Meteor cherries are small to midsized, very sour and perfect for juices, pies and drying.
Native to Canada, the Evans (Evans Bali in the United States) cherry tree is a dwarf variety that produces dark red 1-inch fruit that is perfect for jams, sauces and snacking because of its exceptional sweetness. Growing to 12 feet in height with a span of 9 feet, Evans trees are exceptionally cold hardy and thrive in zones 3 through 8. Harvest begins in July, though if the fruit is left to ripen and harvested later, it increases in sweetness.
Dwarf North Star
The Dwarf North Star cherry tree is a smaller, cold-hardy variety created by the University of Minnesota in 1950. Ripening in late July, disease-resistant North Star cherries are well suited for pies, baking and as candied snacks. The North Star tree grows from 8 to 10 feet in height and is hardy in zones 4 through 8.
Danube cherries were imported from Hungary by Dr. Amy Iazonni of Michigan State University. Producing medium-sized, dark red flesh and skin, Danube trees are hardy in zones 5 through 8. This variety is crack and spot resistant, growing from 10 to 15 feet high with a 10- to 14-foot span. Juicy Danube cherries have a complex sweet-tart flavor that is excellent for pies, desserts, sauces and drying.
- New York's Food and Life Sciences Bulletin: Sweet and Tart Cherry Varieties: Descriptions and Cultural Recommendations
- University of Saskatchewan Fruit Program: Dwarf Sour Cherries for the Prairies
- What's Cooking America: Sour, Tart or "Pie" Cherries
- Iowa State University Extension-Horticulture & Home Pest News: Growing Cherries in the Home Garden