(Prunus cerasus x P. fruiticosa)
‘Carmine Jewel’ Bush Cherry
Description and site preference
Type and size – Shrub 6-8 feet tall
Hardiness zone – 2b (southern limit not determined)
Exposure – Full sun
Soil – Most soils
Drainage – Well-drained
Years to harvest – 3-4 after planting
Maintenance – Low
Life of planting – Probably 20+ years
Machine harvest potential – Very high
Suitable markets – Fresh and processed
Nutritional highlights – Very dark fruit may indicate high anthocyanin content
Adaptability – Adaptable in most soils, self-fertile
Pest issues – Very few
Invasive potential – None
Environmental benefits – Probably a good insectary plant
Shared management – Very high (with other hedgerow plants)
Shared equipment – Very high, including mechanical harvesting
Shared processing – Intermediate, same as other tart cherries
Co-marketing – High (both fresh and processed)
Carmine Jewel appears to have all the attributes to contribute ecological and economic sustainability to an integrated cropping system.
History and background
‘Carmine Jewel’ is a hybrid cherry developed and released from a breeding program in Canada. Original breeding work was done by Dr. Les Kerr in the 1940s and later by the University of Saskatchewan. The hybrid cross between pie cherries (P. cerasus) and dwarf ground cherry (P. fruiticosa) is the parentage for this very cold hardy bush cherry.
It was originally released in Canada in 1999, but has only recently become available in the U.S. It was the first dwarf sour cherry variety released from an ongoing breeding program that is in the process of releasing a series of dwarf tart cherries called the Romance Series.
Observations at Carandale Farm
Observations are extremely limited because plants have only been in the ground since 2011. We were introduced to ‘Carmine Jewel’ during a visit to the North Dakota State University-Carrington Research Extension Center in 2010. Because of the positive impression of the plants seen, Kathy Wiederholt, Fruit Project Manager at the Center, helped with the acquisition of plants for 2011 growing season. One-hundred sixty were planted as a companion crop with aronia in a commercial planting (they are not technically in the test plot). This area is certified organic.
They were tissue cultured live plants in small pots. All but four plants survived and adapted very well at the site. Spring 2012 was hard on them because the warm March caused early growth that froze back severely in April. All plants recovered, but along with the hot, dry summer that followed, plant growth was limited. They have passed the hardiness test.
‘Carmine Jewel’ is a dark red, almost black fruit and is said to be the first tart cherry to ripen. The dark red pigment goes throughout the fruit, which may indicate high levels of anthocyanins. This could put them in the category of a superfruit in terms of nutritional value, specifically for antioxidants. Products like pies and jams made from the fruit are considered gourmet by those familiar with other pie cherries.
It is said to be very productive, though there might be a tendency toward biennial yield fluctuations where higher that average crops will be followed by lower than average crops. It is recommended to let the fruit hang until it turns a dark shade of black-red. When the cherries first turn red, they are not actually ripe. More sugars and flavors develop during the next several weeks. The University of Saskatchewan says that the fruits can hang on the plants for a very long time while they are dead ripe, but experience in North Dakota suggests that for best quality they should be harvested shortly after they turn black-red. The difference may be due to warmer temperatures.
‘Carmine Jewel’ grows to be 6 to 8 feet tall. It can be planted in hedgerows and mechanically harvested. The overall quality and yield of ‘Carmine Jewel’ has given it a good reputation and devoted following by Canadian growers.
After ‘Carmine Jewel’, five other dwarf sour cherry cultivars were released in Canada in 2003 as the Romance Series. They include: ‘Crimson Passion’, ‘Cupid’, ‘Juliette’, ‘Romeo’ and ‘Valentine’. Some Canadian propagators have virus-free certified ‘Crimson Passion’ plants for sale to the U.S. but the other four cultivars are yet to be released in the U.S. When all six dwarf sour cherries are grown in an orchard, harvest can span from late-July to early September. The sweetest cultivars make excellent fresh eating.