|Most tart cherries
in the United States are grown in Michigan. There are fewer than 10
acres growing in California, primarly due to the climate.
Compared with sweet cherries, sour cherries are smaller and softer,
with acidity, flavor of the stone and a slight bitterness that shine
through when cooked. They are indispensable for making pie, preserves,
soup, brandy and albaloo polo, a Persian rice dish. Recently, tart
cherry juice and dried fruit have become popular, as medical studies
have shown that the fruit may have anti-inflammatory and
Also known as tart
cherries, this fruit is available canned or frozen, but there are many
bakers, jam makers and home cooks who seriously prefer the fresh fruit.
Compared with sweet cherry trees, sour cherry trees are much more cold
hardy, and so they are more commonly grown in areas with frigid
winters, such as Russia, Eastern Europe and the U.S. Midwest.
A century ago, Midwestern farmers grew dozens of varieties of sour
cherries, but today, 99% of the domestic crop is of one centuries-old
French type called Montmorency, and almost all of the harvest is
processed. Because sour cherries are so delicate and because of
quarantine restrictions for pests, fresh sour cherries from the Midwest
rarely reach California markets.
Sour cherries are actually from a different species than sweet cherries
such as Bing. They're a natural hybrid of sweet cherry with ground
cherry, a cold-hardy bush that bears tiny, very tart and astringent
Harvest of sour cherries is painstaking. The
fruit has to be hand-picked so they keep their stems and don't leak or
spoil. The fruit is soft and must be handled gently.