Monday, July 03, 2006
in honor of the abundance of ripe cherries that I got to sample at my local farmer's market yesterday, I decided to make this the day of the cherry. It also seems like a quintessential Fourth of July food. And to my surprise, I found out that my choice coincides with the National Cherry Festival held in Traverse City, Michigan on the first weekend in July.
The wild cherry originated in Persia and Armenia and provides the rootstock for most of the flowering cherries which need to be grafted. The fruits are called drupes, which is the name for any fleshy fruit with a hard stone enclosing a seed, like peaches and apricots. Here’s a web site that shows pictures of several cherry varieties:
This web site has a great history of cherries, explaining the many varieties that flourish in various parts of the United States and how they got their names:
Culpeper makes the cherry a tree of Venus. He recommends tart and sweet cherries for various medicinal purposes. According to nutritional writer, Mark Anthony, scientists are discovering that cherries are high in both antioxidants and anthocyanins, which help reduce inflammation and thus recommended for treating arthritis.
Culpeper also recommends using the gum of the tree to ease coughs. Scottish children used to chew it like chewing gum. Funk and Wagnalls says cherry gum in wine is still used for treating coughs (think Ludens Cherry-flavored cough drops). Mrs. Grieve recommends using cherry bark for treeating coughs:
The Cherry Tree Carol is a famous English ballad carol based on an Apocryphal story from the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew. Mary and Joseph were walking through a garden or orchard of cherry tress when Mary was pregnant and Mary asked Joseph to pluck her a cherry. He refused whereupon the unborn Christ Child in her womb bade the tree to bend down before his mother, which it did. In other European countries the same story exists but often told about other fruits, for instance, dates, figs, apples, etc., depending on the country. There is a similar story in the Kalevala about Marjatta, a maiden who notices some scarlet berries growing on a tree as she is walking out to milk the cows. The tree invites her to gather the fruit but she can’t reach it. At her command, a berry jumps down into her lap, and then into her mouth. She later became the mother of Ilmori, the Air. So it seems that cherry fruit has something to do with pregnancy. Could it be related to the idea that swallowing a cherry stone means it will sprout in your stomach?
In Switzerland, according to Funk and Wagnalls, the first fruit of a cherry tree is given to a young mother to eat, preferably one who has just given birth to her first child. This will insure an abundance of fruit. In some parts of France, cherry orchards are wassailed the way apple orchards are in England.
Anthony, Mark, “Nutrition Beyond the Trends: Pie in the Sky,” http://www.foodprocessing.com/articles/2006/083.html
Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend, edited by Maria Leach, Harper and Row 1972
Hageneder, Fred, The Meaning of Trees, Chronicle Books 2005
And in case you’re still hungry for more, this website has everything you ever wanted to know about cherries:
including the lyrics to Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries.
The photo comes from this website: