Wednesday, July 05, 2017

wild cherries

Fruits of Prunus avium (Wild Cherry) -- Moredon, Swindon, 1st July 2017

As the tree's English name is Wild Cherry, I suppose the fruits are "wild cherries".

The Latin name Prunus avium means "of the birds", implying that the fruit is not eaten by humans but by birds (woodpigeons are particularly fond of them). [This has led to a lot of confusion with a quite different native tree the Bird Cherry (Prunus padus).]

Like Fergus the Forager (Fergus Drennan) in the first of the links given below, I was previously put off examining the matter any further by two widespread myths: "Most wild food books will inform you that fresh from the tree they are too mouth-puckeringly sharp to eat, and that you must gather them under-ripe before the birds get them all. Both these apparent facts are utter nonsense, or at least deeply suspect!"

That's what I've found, too. The Wild Cherry is one of our commonest native trees and in years such as 2017 the fruit is abundant. Ripe fruit is easy to find. The fleshy layer is thin compared to shop cherries, but it nevertheless makes a very palatable snack, not too sour, with a fresh, sharp flavour.

I'm happy to learn that a few people do make use of wild cherry fruit, and it's rich in vitamins and anti-oxidants. (Though as with most Prunus species, there's also a few toxic cyanogenic glycosides flying about, but not in the ripe flesh.) Wild cherries were an important food of our Stone Age ancestors, and large numbers of cherry stones are often a feature of their habitations.

Various links that touch on the topic:

(I don't have my Swedish berry bible Bärboken to hand, but from what I remember it's pretty unenthusiastic about P. avium.)



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