Cherry is the fruit of many plants of the genus Prunus, and is a fleshy drupe (stone fruit). The cherry fruits of commerce are usually obtained from a limited number of species, including especially cultivars of the sweet cherry, Prunus avium. The name 'cherry' also refers to the cherry tree, and is sometimes applied to almonds and visually similar flowering trees in the genus Prunus, as in "ornamental cherry", "cherry blossom", etc. Wild cherry may refer to any of the cherry species growing outside of cultivation, although Prunus avium is often referred to specifically by the name "wild cherry" in the British Isles.


Many cherries are members of the subgenus Cerasus, which is distinguished by having the flowers in small corymbs of several together (not singly, nor in racemes), and by having 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. Other cherry fruits are members of subgenus Padus. Cherry trees with low exposure to light tend to have a bigger leaf size so they can intercept all light possible. Cherry trees with high exposure to light tend to have thicker leaves to concentrate light and have a higher photosynthetic capacity.

Most eating cherries are derived from either Prunus avium, the sweet cherry (also called the wild cherry), or from Prunus cerasus, the sour cherry.


Etymology and antiquity

The native range of the sweet cherry extends through most of Europe, western Asia and parts of northern Africa, and the fruit has been consumed throughout its range since prehistoric times. A cultivated cherry is recorded as having been brought to Rome by Lucius Licinius Lucullus from northeastern Anatolia, modern day Turkey, also known as the Pontus region, in 72 BC.

A form of cherry was introduced into England at Teynham, near Sittingbourne in Kent by order of Henry VIII, who had tasted them in Flanders.

The English word cherry, French cerise and Spanish cereza all come from the classical Greek (κέρασος) through the Latin cerasum, thus the ancient Roman place name Cerasus, today a city in northern Turkey Giresun from which the cherry was first exported to Europe.

Wildlife value

Cherry trees also provide food for the caterpillars of several Lepidoptera.


The cultivated forms are of the species sweet cherry (P. avium) to which most cherry cultivars belong, and the sour cherry (P. cerasus), which is used mainly for cooking. Both species originate in Europe and western Asia; they do not cross-pollinate. Some 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, spraying, labor, and their propensity to damage from rain and hail make cherries relatively expensive. Nonetheless, demand is high for the fruit. In commercial production, cherries are harvested by using a mechanized 'shaker'. Hand picking is also widely used to harvest the fruit to avoid damage to both fruit and trees.

Growing season

Cherries have a very short growing season and can grow in most temperate latitudes. The peak season for cherries is in the summer. In Australia and New Zealand they are usually at their peak in late December, in southern Europe in June, in North America in June, in south British Columbia (Canada) in July to mid-August and in the UK in mid-July. In many parts of North America, they are among the first tree fruits to ripen, while in Australia and New Zealand cherries are widely associated with Christmas.

'Kordia' is an early variety which ripens during the beginning of December, 'Lapins peak' ripens near the end of December, and 'Sweethearts' finish slightly later in the Southern Hemisphere.

Like most temperate-latitude trees, cherry seeds require exposure to cold to germinate (a mechanism the tree evolved to prevent germination during the autumn, which would then result in the seedling being killed by winter temperatures). The pits are planted in the autumn (after first being chilled) and seedlings emerge in the spring. A cherry tree will take three to four years to produce its first crop of fruit, and seven years to attain full maturity. Because of the cold-weather requirement, none of the Prunus family can grow in tropical climates.

Nutritional value

Cherries, sour, red, raw Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)

Energy 209 kJ (50 kcal)
Carbohydrates 12.2 g
- Sugars 8.5 g
- Dietary fiber 1.6 g
Fat 0.3 g
Protein 1 g
Vitamin A equiv. 64 μg (8%)
- beta-carotene 770 μg (7%)
- lutein and zeaxanthin 85 μg
Thiamine (vit. B1) 0.03 mg (3%)
Riboflavin (vit. B2) 0.04 mg (3%)
Niacin (vit. B3) 0.4 mg (3%)
Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.143 mg (3%)
Vitamin B6 0.044 mg (3%)
Folate (vit. B9) 8 μg (2%)
Choline 6.1 mg (1%)
Vitamin C 10 mg (12%)
Vitamin K 2.1 μg (2%)
Calcium 16 mg (2%)
Iron 0.32 mg (2%)
Magnesium 9 mg (3%)
Manganese 0.112 mg (5%)
Phosphorus 15 mg (2%)
Potassium 173 mg (4%)
Sodium 3 mg (0%)
Zinc 0.1 mg (1%)

Cherries, sweet, red, raw Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)

Energy 263 kJ (63 kcal)
Carbohydrates 16 g
- Sugars 12.8 g
- Dietary fiber 2.1 g
Fat 0.2 g
Protein 1.1 g
Vitamin A equiv. 3 μg (0%)
- beta-carotene 38 μg (0%)
- lutein and zeaxanthin 85 μg
Thiamine (vit. B1) 0.027 mg (2%)
Riboflavin (vit. B2) 0.033 mg (3%)
Niacin (vit. B3) 0.154 mg (1%)
Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.199 mg (4%)
Vitamin B6 0.049 mg (4%)
Folate (vit. B9) 4 μg (1%)
Choline 6.1 mg (1%)
Vitamin C 7 mg (8%)
Vitamin K 2.1 μg (2%)
Calcium 13 mg (1%)
Iron 0.36 mg (3%)
Magnesium 11 mg (3%)
Manganese 0.07 mg (3%)
Phosphorus 21 mg (3%)
Potassium 222 mg (5%)
Sodium 0 mg (0%)
Zinc 0.07 mg (1%)

As raw fruit, sweet cherries provide little nutrient content per 100 g serving (nutrient table). Dietary fiber and vitamin C are present in the most significant content while other vitamins and dietary minerals each supply less than 10% of the Daily Value (DV) per serving, respectively.

Compared to sweet cherries, raw sour cherries contain higher content per 100 g of vitamin C (12% DV) and vitamin A (8% DV).

Phytochemical research

Cherry anthocyanins, a class of phytochemical red pigments, were shown in preliminary research to possibly affect pain and inflammation mechanisms in rats. Anthocyanins may have other effects which remain under basic research for their potential mechanisms. For example, according to one study, genetically obese rats given a diet of tart cherry powder mixed into a high-fat diet did not gain weight or body fat like those on a similar diet without the powder, and their blood levels of inflammation indicators were lower.

Other information

Dried cherry fruit infused with raspberry concentrate are sold commercially under the name razzcherries.

The wood of some cherry species is especially esteemed for the manufacture of fine furniture.

Cherries are used as additions to commercial ice creams, such as Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia, Haagen Dazs' Cherry Vanilla and Baskin-Robbin's Winter White Chocolate.


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