Unripe Tart Cherries

Unripe Tart Cherry, 2021, 5.5 X 8.5″Morning light, Gouache, Walnut Ink

Making up the start of our forest orchard, our little tart cherry tree is truly small in statue. A dwarf variety, it’s less than 10 feet tall. And every year it out performs every other fruit tree and bush we have on our property. The whole thing explodes with blossoms and then green little unripe cherries. We start checking it every day because we are not the only one eager for cherries – the raccoons LOVE them. Along with the chipmunks, birds, and every insect in range. Last year we missed the entire crop because we were gone for a weekend. By the time we got back, all the cherries were gone – hundreds.

Molly cat accompanied me the mornings spent on this particular painting. Curled up and purring after a final wander through the grass just before her final day with us.

Part of my journey this spring in the backyard was sitting in a single location and seeing how many plants were within the few feet. Solomon’s Seal, Grasses, Burdock, Thistles, Waterleaf, and when I thought I had them all, the most obvious one occurred to me. Look up. The tree I was sitting under was just starting to put out these clustered of green baby cherries.

10% of all print sales are donated to Story County Conservation, Iowa Arboretum, and Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation

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About Unripe Tart Cherries

Prunus cerasus is a species of Prunus in the subgenus Cerasus. It is closely related to the sweet cherry, but has a fruit that is more acidic.

Other Common Names

The Prunus cerasus is also referred to as sour cherry, tart cherry, or the dwarf cherry.

Native Origin

The Prunus cerasus or tart cherry is native to much of Europe and southwest Asia.

Folk Lore

“In Highland folklore, wild cherry had mysterious qualities, and to encounter one was considered auspicious and fateful.

Common folklore for cherries includes that of former President George Washington and the famous cherry tree quote “Father, I can not tell a lie; I cut the tree.”

In 1800 a parson named Mason Locke Weems wrote A History of the Life and Death, Virtues and Exploits, of General George Washington. In his effort to lend color to Washington’s rather dull and uninteresting life story, Weems fabricated the myth about the childhood George Washington cutting down his father’s favorite cherry tree and then admitting to having done it. The tale holds such moral strength, that parents and teachers perpetuated the myth to their children and classrooms ever since it appeared in print.”

Source: Vegetarians in Paradise/Cherries History/Cherries Nutrition/Cherries Folklore/Cherries Recipe, vegparadise.com/highestperch56.html.

Traditional Uses

“Sour cherry trees are cultivated for their edible fruit though they are rather sour when eaten raw. There are several cultivars grown commercially, including the dark morello cherry and the lighter red amarelle and montmorency cherry.

Because they’re so sour, they tend to be cooked or preserved and the syrup is used in drinks and liqueurs. Sour cherries have a high melatonin content and it has been suggested that the fruit is useful in alleviating sleep problems.

The sour cherry has a number of other uses. The seed contains an edible oil which is used in cosmetics, the stem produces a gum which can act as an adhesive, while a green dye can be obtained from the leaves and a dark grey to green dye from the fruit.

A number of traditional medicinal applications can also be extracted from the tree. Bark from the root was soaked in water which was then used as a wash for ulcers and sores; while an infusion of the bark has long been a remedy for fevers and coughs. As with all cherries, the seed contains substances which in water break down to form cyanide/prussic acid, which though highly poisonous, can – in small quantities – stimulate respiration and improve digestion.

Historically, the fruit has been used medicinally to treat various ailments, including upset stomachs. Recently, research has begun to uncover the possibility that the sour cherry could be a new superfood – high in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and melatonin.”

Conservation Status

Not Extinct.

“Sour cherry suffers from fewer pests and diseases than sweet cherry trees. The main threat is from birds removing the fruit. It can also suffer from damage by aphids and caterpillars.”

Source: Woodland Trust. “Cherry, Sour (Prunus Cerasus).” Woodland Trust, http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/a-z-of-british-trees/sour-cherry/.

10% of all print sales are donated to Story County Conservation, Iowa Arboretum, and Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation

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Learn more about the entire Backyard Botanical Collection by visiting the collection’s gallery page. Visit the online gallery to see originals and prints available.

Thank you for visiting and spending time learning about the botanicals in my backyard. May this bring you a deeper understanding and joy in your own ecology.

Kristin M Roach

Published by kristinMroach

Hi! I am an artist, author, and owner of a modern apothecary called Little Woods in Ames, Iowa.