Fantastic quality English cherries have been arriving in our fridges in recent weeks. The cherry was first grown in the UK at Teynham in Kent, by order of Henry VIII, who tasted them in Flanders. The word cherry derives from French cerise, Spanish cereza, all originating from the Latin cerasum, both refereing to an ancient Greek region near Giresun, Turkey, which is where it is believed the first cherries were exported from, to Europe.
What are Cherries?
Cherries, like plums are fleshy drupe or stone fruits of the genus Prunus. Many cherry varieties are members of the subgenus Cerasus, which is distinguished by having smooth fruit with a weak or no groove along one side.
It is much easier to divide cherries into two types the sweet cherry and the sour cherry. The sweet cherry is usually larger than the sour variety, and are fantastic eaten fresh or when cooked. The sour cherry is rounder than the heart shaped sweet cherry. The flesh is much softer and are not suitable for eating raw. The sour cherry is normally cooked with sugar to create pies, preserves and relishes.
Where do Cherries come from?
In 2014 Turkey was the largest producer of sweet cherries, world production was 2.25 million tonnes for which Turkey produced 20%. Other large producers were the U.S.A and Iran. Sour cherry production in 2014 was 1.36 million tonnes, with Russia, Ukraine and Turkey being the largest producers.
2014 was a record year for British cherry production, with 3,500 tonnes produced, this was more than double the previous year.
English cherries getting better every year.
Traditional cherry orchards in Kent were phased out during the 1960’s due to the low yields meant that production was not financially viable. This lead to the supermarkets importing more cherries from Turkey, Spain and the United States.
Recently British cherry growers have moved away from cherry trees (some growing up to 12 metres high) and replaced them with dwarf varieties grown inside poly tunnels. This decision has resulted in the huge resurgence in the British cherry industry. The dwarf plants make harvesting the fruits much easier, and the poly tunnels offer greater protection from birds and other environmental factors.
Benefits of eating cherries.
As well as being a delicious treat there are several health benefits that the cherry has to offer. Studies have shown that drinking cherry juice can cause a reduction in blood pressure, this in turn can cut the risk of a stroke by 38 percent and heart disease by 23 percent.
Cherries are packed full of vitamin C, in fact 150g of this tasty fruit contains 25 percent of the daily recommended allowance and more than 2 grams of fibre. They are also full of antioxidants that contain inflammatory properties.
The cherry is a natural source of melatonin which is a hormone that helps regulate sleep. A study featured in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that cherry juice (tart cherry juice particularly) can improve sleep for those suffering from insomnia.
Interesting facts about cherries.
Since 1925 the National Cherry Festival is held in Traverse City, Michigan. Originally known as the Blessing of the Blossoms Festival, it was held in May to attract tourists to see the cherry blossoms. However in 1931 it was renamed the National Cherry Festival and moved to the summer. Annually more than 500,000 people attended the festival, where attendees can enjoy activities such as cherry pit spitting and pie eating.
The festival participants entered the Guinness Book of World Records on July 25th,1987 when they baked the worlds largest cherry pie. The pie weighed 28,350 pounds and measured 5.33 metres in diameter. This record lasted three years until 14th July 1990 when a pie weighing 37,740 pounds and measuring 6.1 metres in diameter was baked in Oliver, British Columbia.