The cherry is a delectable early-summer fruit, especially grateful
as a refreshing dessert and much valued in cookery, when fresh, canned,
preserved or dried, for the making of pies, tarts, sauces and confections.
During the last few years, in America at least, the consumption of cherries
has been enormously increased by the fashion of adding preserved cherries,
as much for ornament as to give flavor, to many drinks and ices.
The great bulk of the cherry crop now grown in America for commercial purposes
is canned, the industry being more or less specialized in a few fruit regions.
The demand for cherries for canning seems to be increasing greatly but
unfortunately it calls for but few varieties, the Montmorency
being the sort sought for among the Sour Cherries,
while the hard-fleshed varieties of the Bigarreau
type are in greatest demand among the Sweet Cherries.
The cherry, while a very common fruit in nearly all agricultural regions of America, does not hold the place in American markets as a fresh fruit that it does in the towns and cities of Europe. The great abundance of strawberries, raspberries, currants, gooseberries, dewberries, blackberries, as well as early varieties of tree fruits, makes keener here than abroad the competition in the fruit markets during cherry time. The fact, too, that market fruits in America are shipped long distances, for which the cherry is not well adapted, helps to explain the relatively small regard in which this fruit has been held for commercial purposes in the fresh state. In recent years, however, both Sweet Cherries and Sour Cherries, the former in particular, have been sent to the markets in far greater abundance, the impetus to their market value being due to a better product - better varieties, hence greater demand - and to greatly improved facilities for shipping and holding for sale.
In Europe several liqueurs are very commonly made from cherries both for home and commercial uses. Such is not the case in America, where, except in very limited quantities in which unfermented cherry juices are used in the home, this fruit is not used in liqueur-making. In some of the countries of Europe, wine is made from the juice; a spirit, kirschwasser is distilled from the fermented pulp as an article for both home and commerce; and ratafias and cordials are very generally flavored with cherries. In the Austrian province of Dalmatia a liqueur or cordial called maraschino is Made by a secret process of fermentation and distillation. This liqueur is imported in America in considerable quantities to flavor preservation in which the home-grown cherries are prepared for use in various drinks and confections. No attempts have been made to grow the Marasca cherry on a commercial scale in America but undoubtedly it could be grown and, with the process of making maraschino discovered, an important use would be developed for cherries - all the more to be desired since the foreign maraschino is now grossly adulterated and imitated in this country. Both the fruits and seeds of cherries, especially of the Mahaleb, are steeped in spirits for food, drink and medicinal purposes. An oil used in making perfumes for scenting soap and confections is also extracted from the seeds of the Mahaleb because of which use this species is often called the "Perfumed Cherry".
In the old herbals and pomologies much is made of the value of cherries for medicinal purposes. The fruit was supposed to be a sovereign remedy for various ailments of the digestive tract as well as for nervous disorders and epilepsy. The astringent leaves and bark, or extracts from them, were much used by the ancients in medicine and are still more or less employed both as home remedies and in the practice of medicine as mild tonics and sedatives. One of the active chemicals of the leaf, seed and bark is hydrocyanic acid to which is largely due the peculiar odor of these structures. A gum is secreted from the trunks of cherry trees, known in commerce as cerasin, which has some use in medicine and in various trades as well, especially as a substitute and as an adulterant of gum arabic.
At least three cultivated cherry trees produce wood of considerable value. The wood of the cherry is hard, close-grained, solid, durable, a handsome pale red, or brown tinged with red. Prunus avium, the Sweet Cherry, furnishes a wood which, if sufficient care be taken to season it, is of much value in cabinet-making and for the manufacture of musical instruments. Prunus mahaleb is a much smaller tree than the former but its wood, as much as there is of it, is even more valuable, being very hard and fragrant and dark enough in color to take on a beautiful mahogany-like polish. In France the wood of the Mahaleb cherry is held in high esteem, under the name Bois de St. Lucie, in cabinet-making and for toys, canes, handles and especially for the making of tobacco pipes. In Japan the wood of Prunus pseudocerasus is said to be in great demand for engraving and in making the blocks used in printing cloth and wall-paper. In America the wood of the orchard species of cherries is seldom used for domestic purposes, that of the wild species being so much more cheaply obtainable and serving all purposes quite as well.
To people who know it only for its fruit, the cherry does not appear particularly desirable as an ornamental. But wild and cultivated cherries furnish many beautiful trees in a genus peculiar for the beauty of its species. The color and abundance of the flowers, fruits and leaves of the cultivated cherries and the fact that they are prolific of forms with double flowers, weeping, fastigiate or other ornamental habits, make the several species of this plant valuable as ornamentals. Besides, they are vigorous and rapid in growth, hardy, easy of culture, comparatively free from pests and adapted to a great diversity of soils and climates. Both the ornamental and the edible cherries are very beautiful in spring when abundantly covered with flowers, which usually open with the unfolding leaves, as well as throughout the summer when overspread with lustrous green foliage and most of them are quite as conspicuously beautiful in the autumn when the leaves turn from green to light and dark tints of red. ALL will agree that a cherry tree in full fruit is a most beautiful object. In the winter when the leaves have fallen, some of the trees, especially of the ornamental varieties, are very graceful and beautiful, others are often picturesque, and even the somewhat stiff and formal Sweet Cherries are attractive plants in the garden or along the roadside.
Very acceptable jellies, sauces and preserves are made from several of the wild cherries in the Padus group. The peasantry of the Eastern Hemisphere have in times of need found them important foods as have also the American Indians at all times. The fruits of some of the species of Padus are quite commonly used in flavoring liqueurs and on both continents are sometimes fermented and distilled into a liqueur similar to kirschwasser. The bark of different parts of the trees of this group is valuable in medicine - at least is largely used. The trees of several species form handsome ornamentals and some of them are in commerce for the purpose. Prunus serotina, one of the group, because of the strength of its wood and the beautiful satiny polish which its surface is capable of receiving, is a valuable timber tree of American forests. For the products of the members of this group, as just set forth, the domestication of some of the species of Padus might well be pushed.
Kirschwasser as a commercial article is made
chiefly on the upper Rhine from the wild black Sweet Cherry (Prunus
avium). In its manufacture, fruit - flesh and kernels - is mashed
into a pulp which is allowed to ferment. By distillation from this
fermented pulp a colorless liqueur is obtained.
Maraschino is a liqueur, or cordial, made from the fruit and leaves of the small, sour, black Marasca cherry, The product comes chiefly from Zara, the capital of the Austrian province of Dalmatia, where it has been made and exported for over 200 years. Such accounts of the process of making maraschino as have become public seem to agree that the liqueur is a distillation of a compote made from the fruit and young leaves. When ripe the cherries are picked early in the morning and sit at once to the distillery where the stones are extracted by machinery- The leaves are cut, pressed and added to the fruit with sugar and alcohol. This mixture is allowed to ferment for six months or thereabouts and from it is then distilled maraschino. It is then stored in cellars for three years before being placed on the markets. In both Europe and America there are many imitations of the maraschino liqueur in which neither fruit nor foliage of the Marasca nor any other cherry has any part.
According to the Dalmatians all attempts to improve the Marasca cherry by culture have failed. They say, too, that it will not thrive elsewhere than in Dalmatia. Under culture, the fruits and leaves lose their distinctive aroma and taste as they do on any but the native soil of the variety. The poorer, sparser and more rocky the ferruginous soil, the wilder the tree, the smaller and sourer the cherries, the better the maraschino liqueur - so the present makers say. Since considerable quantities of cherries are put up in America in maraschino, or its imitation, and the manufacture of such products is a growing industry, the following ruling by the Board of Food and Drug Inspection of the United States Department of Agriculture, taken from Food Inspection Decision 141, is of interest to growers, canners and users of cherries: "In considering the products prepared from the large light-colored cherry of the Napoleon Bigarreau, or Royal Anne type, which are artificially colored and flavored and put up in a sugar sirup, flavored with various materials, the Board has reached the conclusion that this product is not properly entitled to be called 'Maraschino Cherries,' or 'Cherries in Maraschino.' If, however, these cherries are packed in a sirup, flavored with maraschino alone, it is the opinion of the Board that they would not be misbranded, if labeled ' Cherries, Maraschino Flavor,' or 'Maraschino Flavored Cherries.' If the cherries are packed in maraschino liqueur there would be no objection to the phrase 'Cherries in Maraschino.' When these artificially colored cherries are put up in a syrup flavored in imitation of maraschino, even though the flavoring may consist in part of maraschino, it would not be proper to use the word 'Maraschino ' in connection with the product unless preceded by the word Imitation.' They may, however, be labeled to show that they are a preserved cherry, artificially colored and flavored. "The presence of artificial coloring or flavoring matter, of any substitute for cane sugar, and the presence and amount of benzoate of soda, when added in these products must be plainly stated upon the label in the manner provided in Food Inspection Decisions Nos. 52 and 104."