Wild cherry: Plant profile
Wild Cherry, Sweet Cherry, Mazzard, Gean, Crann Silin Fiain
Prunus avium (& other Prunus spp.)
Native to Europe. Widespread all over England and Wales. Although still common, less frequent in some parts of Scotland and Ireland.
Where to find Wild Cherry
Deciduous woodlands and hedgerow. Widely planted in parks and alongside streets.
When to find Wild Cherry
Fruit early to mid summer.
How to identify Wild Cherry
Wild Cherry is a deciduous tree. The tree has a straight trunk and branches that grow in rings up along the trunk. The bark is brown to grey and have ‘cuts’ around the trunk called lenticels. The leaves have elongated oval shape with serrated edges and bright green in colour, which is lighter underneath. The flowers are either white or pink in colour and are variable dependent on species / variety. The fruit is round and shiny, red in colour and has a stone in the middle.
Wild Cherry lookalikes
The Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera) fruit look similar, which is generally a bit bigger and come in different colours such as red and yellow. Nonetheless, all species of cherries and plums are edible.
All about Wild Cherry
There are a few different Cherry species growing in the UK and Ireland. The most common is Wild or Sweet Cherry (Prunus avium), but there are also Sour Cherries (Prunus cerasus) and Bird Cherries (Prunus padus). All Cherries are edible but have different flavour profiles.
The fruit will start to appear at the end of June and you’ll have to be quick to beat the birds. The Cherries are often a little hidden by the leaves, so it’s best to stand under the tree and spot the darker ones, though sometimes it’s more practical to pick under-ripe fruit to ripen at home.
Medicinal properties of Wild Cherry
The fruit stalks are astringent, diuretic and tonic.
Culinary uses and recipes with Wild Cherry
The flowers taste of almonds and can be made into syrup or infused in milk for making custard.
Sweet Cherries are best eaten fresh, straight from the tree and added to natural yoghourt. However, Wild Cherries are relatively small and tedious to pit and are often used to infuse drinks and make preserves and sauces.
Cherry fruit is so versatile. It can be used to make Hungarian Sour Cherry soup (Meggyleves), cooked with game or venison terrines, made into preserves such as jams and pickles or sweet desserts such as panacotta and chocolate & cherry mousse.
In the drinks front, Cherry can be used to make Cherry schnapps (Kirschwasser) and wine made of blossoms or fruit, but fruit can simply be infused into drinks to make flavoured brandy or a mock amaretto. Off the booze? Make a simple and delicious cordial or juice.
Safe foraging of Wild Cherries
Just like shop-bought Cherries, the seeds or pips of the Wild Cherry contain hydrogen cyanide and are poisonous. It is usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure.
Ecological importance of Wild Cherry
Cherry trees provide a food source for many birds and small mammals, as well as used for shelter and nesting.