The cherry is the fruit of many plants of the genus Prunus. It is a fleshy stone fruit. The cherry fruits of commerce are usually obtained from a limited number of species, including especially cultivars of the wild cherry, Prunus avium.
The name 'cherry', often as the compound term 'cherry tree', may also be applied to many other members of the genus Prunus, or to all members of the genus as a collective term. The fruits of many of these are not cherries, and have other common names, including plum, apricot, peach, and others. The name 'cherry' is also frequently used in reference to cherry blossom.
True cherry fruits are born by members of the sub-genus Cerasus which is distinguished by having the flowers in small corymbs of several together (not singly, nor in racemes), and by having a 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.
The majority of eating cherries are derived from either Prunus avium, the wild cherry (sometimes called the sweet cherry), or from Prunus cerasus, the sour cherry. The native range of the wild cherry extends through most of Europe, and the fruit has been consumed through its range since prehistoric times. A cultivated cherry is recorded as having been brought to Rome by Lucius Licinius Lucullus from northeastern Anatolia, 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, Spanish cereza all come from the Classical Greek through the Latin cerasum, thus the ancient Roman place name Cerasus, from which the cherry was first exported to Europe.
The cultivated forms are of the species wild 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, there is high demand for the fruit.
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 they are usually at their peak around Christmas time, in southern Europe in June, in North America in June, in south British Columbia (Canada) in July-mid August and in the UK in mid July. In many parts of North America they are among the first tree fruits to ripen.
Cherries contain anthocyanins, the red pigment in berries. Cherry anthocyanins have been shown to reduce pain and inflammation in rats. Anthocyanins are also potent antioxidants under active research for a variety of potential health benefits. According to a study funded by the Cherry Marketing Institute presented at the Experimental Biology 2008 meeting in San Diego, rats that received whole tart cherry powder mixed into a high-fat diet did not gain as much weight or build up as much body fat, and their blood showed much lower levels of inflammation indicators that have been linked to heart disease and diabetes. In addition, they had significantly lower blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides than the other rats.
Cherries (sweet, edible parts): Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 263 kJ (63 kcal) | Carbohydrates 16 g
Sugars 13 g | Dietary fiber 2 g
Fat 0.2 g | Protein 1.1 g
Vitamin C 7 mg (12%) | Iron0.4 mg (3%)
Percentages are relative to USrecommendations for adults.