There are many varieties of morello cherries or sour cherries and some of the most famous are the English morello cherries. The other variety of sour cherry is the amarelle but these are a paler colour than morellos which are black, with dark red flesh. They have a tart flavour in comparison to the red sweet cherries, Prunus avium (meaning bird’s plums). They are soft, succulent and used in preserves, tarts, Black Forest gateau and kirsch, among other things. It is thought that the word, kirsch comes from the Mesopotamian word “ karshu” where the first cultivated cherries grew in the 8th century BC.  Like the sweet cherry they are members of the rose family and a relation of the plum.
   The name, cerasus, shows the origin of these cherries, which was Cerasus on the black Sea coast in what is now Turkey, and the name has changed to Gireson. Cerasus was famous for its cherries in ancient Greece, but it is believed that the Romans took cherries to Britain from Persia in the first century AD. Legend has it that you can trace the old Roman roads by the wild cherry trees, as soldiers in the Roman legions spat out the cherry stones as they marched.  
   The sour cherry tree is much hardier than the red cherry tree as it can withstand extremes in temperatures and as it flowers later the fruit is less likely to be harmed by frost.
  In the Middle Ages cherries were widely grown in monastery and private gardens and it is only in recent years that the cherry trees have suffered a decline in Britain which now imports the majority of cherries consumed there.
   Cherry juice is extremely beneficial for us and tastes good, unlike beetroot juice which is something of an acquired taste. They have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and a rich in B-complex vitamins and vitamin C and also contain vitamin A and are rich in the minerals phosphorous and calcium. They also contain iron and if you drink a glass of morello cherry juice every day you will ensure the healthy functioning of the gall bladder and liver. The anthocyans they contain can inhibit the growth of cancerous tumours and can slow cardiovascular disease.
   The poet A.E. Housman (1859-1936) was born in Worcestershire and would have seen many flowering morello cherry trees. He wrote these lines: -
     Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
     Is hung with bloom along the bough
     And stands about the woodland ride
     Wearing white for Eastertide.”
Cherries were the inspiration for Robert Herrick (1591-1674) the poet who wrote the lines which were set to music in the 19th century.
    “Cherry ripe! Cherry Ripe,
     Cherry ripe I cry,
     Come fools and fair ones, come and buy.”                                                            The cherry was seen as a symbol for the hymen and virginity, so this particular poem has a double meaning which it would seem the staid Victorians had not realized, as the song became very popular - or maybe they weren’t as prudish as we believe. Cherry trees have also been seen as symbols of fertility and at one time there was a superstition that if a woman who had just given birth ate the first cherry from a tree, the tree would yield a very good crop for its owner. In Elizabethan times and later, the stones from cherries were heated and put in bed pans to warm beds. As the tree bark and stems of cherries smell faintly of almonds, the stones would probably also have had this aroma which was left on warm bed sheets.
   Of course Anton Chekhov wrote a play called “The Cherry Orchard” which used the symbolism of the cherry.
   The recipe below was created by the famous chef, Escoffier on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.

2 lbs morello cherries, pitted
¼ pint morello cherry juice
½ cup sugar
3 tbsps butter
½ cup kirsch or cherry brandy
grated zest of ½ an orange (optional)
grated zest of  1 lemon (optional)

Put the cherries, juice and sugar in a pan over a medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. (3-5mins)
Add the butter and stir until it has melted and is thoroughly mixed into the liquid.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the kirsch then return to a medium heat and bring to the boil.
Put ice cream into bowls and top with the cherry mixture and serve immediately.
This has Taste and is a Treat.

1 comment:

  1. Pensive Engineer29 June 2012 at 20:41

    Thanks for the great information. We are going picking next week and I will have to try the cherries jubilee recipe.