Tart Cherry (Pie Cherry, Sour Cherry)

(Prunus cerasus)

Background

Evans tart cherry
Evans tart cherry

Compared to other common tree fruits, cultivar choices for P. cerasus are limited, but those that are available are hardy, adaptable and self-fertile, which limits the need for additional cultivar selection. The gold standard for the tart cherry processing industry continues to be ‘Montmorency’, which was selected in Montmorency, France, more than 400 years ago.

There are two types of tart cherry, ‘Morello’ and ‘Amarelle’. ‘Amarelle’ are bright red with clear to yellow flesh. Consumers are most familiar with this type because ‘Montmorency’ is in this group and is the most widely grown cherry for processing. ‘Morello’ types have a dark red fruit with red flesh and dark red juice. Often overlooked in the U.S., this type is of particular interest because the intense pigmentation indicates high anthocyanin levels associated with enhanced nutritional benefits. (See NC State reference, below.)

All cherries are known to be excellent sources of vitamins, minerals and nutraceuticals. They are one of the few food sources that contain melatonin, an antioxidant that helps regulate heart rhythms and the sleep cycle (See references, below.)

Observations at Carandale Farm

Meteor tart cherries
Meteor tart cherry plantings in Carandale’s commercial orchard. The tree in the background is 37 years old.

Tart cherries have been part of the commercial fruit orchard at Carandale Farm for more than 40 years. ‘Meteor’ has been and continues to be a reliable producer of good quality ‘Amarelle’-type fruit. The semi-dwarf tree has dense foliage that seems to discourage major bird predation. ‘Northstar’ is a dwarf tree that produces ‘Morello’-type fruit, but it had a short life span in the commercial planting. Fruit quality wasn’t consistent, and it was attractive to birds.

Based on past experience with tart cherries of both types (‘Amarelle’ and ‘Morello’), Carandale growers were excited to read about an option that might combine the benefits of both. ‘Evans’ (also called ‘Bali’) was being promoted as “the best-selling fruit tree on the Canadian Prairie. Incredibly hardy, possibly even to Zone 2. Large, even huge, crops of English ‘Morello’-type fruit virtually every year.” (See Fedco Trees reference, below.)

Dormant Evans tree
Dormant Evans tart cherry tree

In the spring of 2004, five trees were purchased from St. Lawrence Nurseries. These natural dwarf trees were started from tissue culture, so they are on their own rootstock (not grafted). The trees were small but transplanted well. They have had good resistance to most insect and disease pressure but have shown susceptibility to cherry leaf spot. The tree size, productivity and winter hardiness have met expectations, but the big disappointment is that they are not a ‘Morello’-type cherry and therefore do not have the enhanced anthocyanins, which was a major reason for the trial. (St. Lawrence Nurseries did not promote them as a ‘Morello’-Type cherry, but many other sources did, and continue to do so.)

‘Evans’ is a good cultivar, and if it lives up to its winter hardiness claims, it would still be a good choice for northern areas. Compared to ‘Meteor’, the fruit ripens a little later, may be slightly larger, has comparable yields and is somewhat sweeter when dead ripe. The fruit is softer and may have more handling damage. Susceptibility to brown rot appears to to be about the same.

References

USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Sour Cherries
Fedco Trees: Evans Pie Cherry
North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension information on Tart Cherry

Comments are closed.