Morello Cherry

Morello Cherry
Missing image

Illustration of Morello Cherry
Scientific classification
Species:P. cerasus

Template:Taxobox section binomial botany

The Morello Cherry or Sour Cherry (Prunus cerasus) is a species of Prunus in the sungenus Cerasus (cherries), native to much of Europe and southwest Asia. It is closely related to the Wild Cherry (P. avium) from which sweet cherries derive, but has a fruit which is more acidic, and so is useful primarily for culinary purposes.

The tree is smaller than the Wild Cherry, growing up to 4-10 m tall, and has twiggy branches, whilst the crimson to black fruit is borne on shorter stalks.

Cultivation and uses

Cultivated Morello Cherries were selected from wild specimens of Prunus cerasus and the doubtfully distinct P. acida from around the Caspian and Black Seas, and were known to the Greeks in 300 BC. They were also extremely popular with the Romans, who introduced them into Britain long before the 1st century AD.

The art of their cultivation was lost during the Dark Ages, although they were re-introduced to England in the 16th century by Henry VIII. They became a popular crop amongst Kentish growers, and by 1640 over two dozen named cultivars were recorded. In the Americas, Massachusetts colonists planted the first sour cherry, 'Kentish Red', when they arrived.

Before the Second World War there were more than fifty cultivars of Morello Cherry in cultivation in England, however today few are grown commercially, and despite the continuation of named cultivars such as 'Kentish Red', 'Amarelles', 'Griottes' and 'Flemish', only the generic Morello is offered by most nurseries. This is a late flowering variety, thus misses more frosts than its sweet counterpart and is therefore a more reliable cropper. The Morello cherry ripens in mid to late summer, towards the end of August in Southern England. It is self fertile, and would be a good pollenizer for other varieties were it not so late flowering in the season.

Morello cherries require similar cultivation conditions to pears, that is, they prefer a rich, well drained moist soil, although they demand more nitrogen and water than sweet cherries. Trees will do badly if waterlogged, but have greater tolerance of poor drainage than sweet varieties. As with sweet cherries, Morellos are traditionally cultivated by budding onto strong growing rootstocks which produce trees too large for most gardens, although newer dwarfing rootstocks such as Colt and Gisella are now available. During spring flowers should be protected, and trees weeded, mulched and sprayed with seaweed solution. This is also the time when any required pruning should be carried out (note that cherries should not be pruned during the dormant winter months). Morello's fruit on younger wood than sweet varieties, thus can be pruned harder. They are usually grown as standards, but can be fan trained, cropping well even on cold walls, or grown as low bushes.

Morellos suffer fewer pests and diseases than sweet cherries, although they are prone to heavy fruit losses from birds. In summer fruit should be protected with netting. When harvesting fruit this should be cut from the tree rather than risking damage by pulling the stalks. Morello cherries freeze well and retain their flavour superbly.

See also

de:Sauerkirsche pl:Wiśnia


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