“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas …” forget the ‘toys in every store’, there are cherries for sale! Cherries come into season in late November, early December, sometimes, like this year, even later. It’s a short season; generally it’s all over by the end of January.
Cherries grow on trees, and are related to peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots and almonds. They have small pink blossoms in early spring, and a strong wind can blow all those flowers away. That is disappointing if you love blossom season but it’s even more disappointing to the farmers and home gardeners who grow cherries – no flowers means no fruit!
Cherries are a low calorie fruit, high in antioxidants and melatonin, which helps us sleep. They can be eaten fresh, canned, frozen or cooked in desserts and, surprisingly, savoury dishes.
If we see cherries for sale, we may be forgiven for thinking there are only a couple of varieties, red and ‘black’. My favourite cherry is the so-called ‘white’ cherry which is, of course, not white but a yellow and light red fruit. It’s easy to be taken in by the colour and think that’s all there is but there are more than 40 varieties of cherries grown commercially in Australia; and over 1.200 varieties worldwide!
HOW TO GROW CHERRIES
Like many fruit trees, cherry (Prunus Avium) needs “chill hours” in order to set fruit. For cherries, that means 800-1200 hours between O°C and 4.5°C while the plant is dormant. In fact, cherries will not come out of dormancy unless they have had the required hours of chill. Although I have never seen it, I guess that means that a cherry tree would go to sleep and never wake up if it wasn’t cold enough!
Here, at Hillside, in the foothills of the Blue Mountains in western Sydney, it is not cold enough over a long enough period of time to grow cherries. However, other suburbs of western Sydney, where it gets down to -5°C on many days of winter, producing cherry fruit is possible.
If, like us, you don’t have that kind of chill, you will have to stick to buying cherries. For those of you who live in colder conditions, here are some other things you might want to know:
HOW TO GROW CHERRIES
- rich, well-drained soil – they do not like wet feet or ‘water-logging’
- soil pH of about 6.5
- plenty of organic matter in the soil, added at planting, in spring and after harvest
- plenty of water in summer
- some varieties need another cherry nearly for fertilisation
Cherry trees live, on average, around twenty years. It takes a cherry tree about four to seven years to fruit after it has been transplanted into the garden. Some dwarf varieties can take less than that.
You can read information from the experts at Organic Gardener Magazine or Sustainable Gardening Australia if you are interested in more detail.
FUN FINAL FACT
Cherry trees are part of the rose family!