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Sour cherry is smaller than sweet cherry cultivars and can reach up to 10m high. It grows best in moist, rich soil as it requires more nitrogen and water than sweet cherries. The bark of the tree is reddish-brown and shiny, with peeling horizontal strips. The branches spread upwards and have smooth twigs.

Sour cherry trees are cultivated for their edible fruit though they are rather sour when eaten raw. There are several cultivars grown commercially, including the dark morello cherry and the lighter red amarelle and montmorency cherry.

Because they’re so sour, they tend to be cooked or preserved and the syrup is used in drinks and liqueurs. Sour cherries have a high melatonin content and it has been suggested that the fruit is useful in alleviating sleep problems.

The sour cherry has a number of other uses. The seed contains an edible oil which is used in cosmetics, the stem produces a gum which can act as an adhesive, while a green dye can be obtained from the leaves and a dark grey to green dye from the fruit.

A number of traditional medicinal applications can also be extracted from the tree. Bark from the root was soaked in water which was then used as a wash for ulcers and sores; while an infusion of the bark has long been a remedy for fevers and coughs. As with all cherries, the seed contains substances which in water break down to form cyanide/prussic acid, which though highly poisonous, can – in small quantities – stimulate respiration and improve digestion.

Cherry, Sour

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