Sour Cherry Tree or Bush – a superfood for your garden

A sour cherry tree or bush (Prunus Cerasus) add color, variety and edible fruits to your garden – even in a small space.

And sour cherries are easy to harvest in their manageable bush form. As long as you get to the fruit before the birds do.

Most sour cherry bushes do not grow to more than 1.5 meters wide and 3 meters high in about 20 years. So long before they reach this height you can pretty much prune to the size that is manageable for you.

A great addition to any garden, sour cherry bushes are rich in nutrients, antioxidants and vitamin C.  And now more than ever before the trend is towards home-grown, edible plants. 

How sour is a sour cherry tree?

Don’t let the name put you off. When we talk about sour cherries from the plant Prunus Cerasus, we are not talking about mouth-tingling sourness that makes your eyes water, like a lemon.

No, these sour cherries actually are edible straight from the bush.

However you will enjoy them more in pies, jams, cordials or cakes. And you can still reap the benefits on all their health properties, albeit that we add a little sugar to sweeten the palate!

But a sour cherry bush also delivers on decoration. An abundance of small white flowers make their appearance every spring, on each and every healthy branch and twig.

Sour cherry bushes look great standing solitary. As they are self-fertile, you only need one bush. They can even be grown as a free-growing hedge when planted in a row. 

How to grow sour cherry bushes as a superfood

There are 6 main rules to follow to help sour cherry bushes thrive in your garden:

  1. Do not plant in water-logged or soggy soil with bad drainage. The root hates to get water-logged.
  2. Water regularly when first planted
  3. Do not water in winter
  4. Feed the bush during the springtime
  5. Keep the weeds away from directly under the bush
  6. Cover the berries with a net to keep the birds away

What are the most popular types of sour cherry bushes to grow?

There are two main types of sour cherry bushes that are suitable to be grown in our own gardens.

Montmorency Cherries 

Montmorency cherries are named for a region in France when they originate from. Today they are mostly cultivated in North America.

Montmorency cherries are commonly grown due to the enormous harvest that a single bush can yield. 

The cherries are bright red and will give you a harvest early on in the summer.

Use Montmorency cherries to make pies, cobblers and sour cherry turnovers.

English Morello Cherries

Beautiful dark red, almost black,  morello cherries will give you a slightly later harvest, in late summer.

They are the most popular cherry in the UK for cooking.

They are slightly more acidic than their Montmorency cousins and make excellent cherry syrups and liquors. 

How to plant a sour cherry bush in 10 easy steps

You can plant a sour cherry bush at any time or year, as long as you can dig the ground.

  1. Choose a sunny spot in your garden. To ripen the fruit you need as much sun as possible.
  2. Dig a hole around 50cm deep and 1 meter wide. 
  3. Blend in a sack of tree and bush soil and turn over with a fork. Ideally a cherry bush likes a soil with a pH value of around 6.
  4. Add 2 dl of liquid feed suitable for trees and bushes, together with a couple of handfuls of grass clippings if you have some.
  5. Place the plant into the hole so that the base is level with the top of hole and fill the hole with more new soil. Press firmly around the base and water well.
  6. The base of the bush should be at least 1 meter in diameter and be kept weed free
  7. Do not sow any other plants or flowers or even grass under the bush. The area should be kept completely clear.
  8. To keep away weeds you can cover the soil around the base with ground cover cloth and then decorate with broken bark or loose decorative stones if you wish.
  9. Every summer feed the bush with your own compost, a good quality liquid feed or chicken pellets. 
  10. As soon as you start to see the fruit appear, cover with a garden net to keep the birds away.

When is the right time to harvest sour cherry bushes?

Expect brilliant blossoms in springtime, which give way to an abundance of bright red fruit by mid-summer. 

How to preserve your harvest of cherries

When the harvest is over, you have a happy problem if you have too much fruit. 

When you’ve made your jams, pies, syrups and more, preserve the rest of the fruit to use later in the year. You will be happy you do.

To best preserve sour cherries, you have two choices, depending upon how you wish to use them later.

Freezing sour cherries

Cherry can be placed in the freezer. They retain their shape and juiciness really well when frozen. 

Pit the cherries first, then place in freezer bags in manageable batches and defrost just for a couple of hours when you need them.

Drying sour cherries

We love to used dried cherries for breakfast muesli and salads. 

  • Start by pitting the cherries. Then place evenly spread out in one layer on a large baking tray covered with baking or parchment paper.
  • Put the oven on low, around 60 degrees C or 140 degrees F.
  • Slowly dry the cherries for around 6 hours. They should be dry but not crisp and have a texture like leather. If they are still juicy continue drying for up to 10 hours.
  • Store the dried cherries in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

The best way to pit cherries to preserve as much fruit as possible

We’ve all tried to pit cherries in preparation for cooking and get to the one that just won’t budge from the surrounding flesh. 

Cherry pitters can be bought at most quality cook shops. When harvesting your own cherries from your garden, it’s a good idea to invest in a good cherry pitter that can pit many cherries at the same time.

If you don’t have one, try poking a narrow wooden skewer into the top of the cherry and the pit should pop out. 

The best sour cherry recipe we know

As we have had many requests for including recipes in our garden vegetable and herb pages, here is the best recipe we know of using sour cherries:

Sour cherry crumble with salt flakes

Filling:

  • 25g butter
  • 800g fresh pitted sour cherries
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1g salt flakes (Tip! Only use salt flakes and not regular salt!)
  • small amount of butter to butter the dish

Crumble:

  • 125g of cold butter
  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g oat flakes
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 1g salt flakes (Tip! Only use salt flakes and not regular salt!)

Method:

  • Set the ovan at 200 degrees celsius.
  • Make a crumble topping by rubbing the cold butter into the mixture of plain flour, oat flakes and caster sugar. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles course bread crumbs.
  • Stir in the salt flakes and place in the fridge whilst you make the filling.
  • Use washed and pitted fresh cherries. Melt the butter in a large frying pan.
  • On a medium heat tip in all your cherries. Cook gently, stirring for 2 minutes until the cherries are slightly softened.
  • Tip in the sugar, cinnamon and salt flakes and stir until mixed, about another minute.
  • Pour the filling into a large buttered oven dish.
  • Sprinkle over the crumble topping.
  • Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until the top is slightly golden and bubbling.
  • Allow to cool slightly before serving warm with whipped vanilla cream or ice cream.
  • It’s also delicious cold for breakfast the next day!

Meet the author: Mattias is an experienced gardener spending most of his free time on his knees among herbs, plants and garden vegetables. For the past two years he has been sharing gardening projects and how-to tutorials on the NordicLavender website and YouTube channel.