A sour cherry tree or bush (Prunus Cerasus) is a fantastic way to 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 kitchen garden, sour cherries are rich in nutrients, antioxidants, and vitamin C. And now more than ever, the trend is towards home-grown, edible plants.
- How sour is a sour cherry tree?
- How to grow sour cherry bushes as a superfood
- What are the most popular types of sour cherry bushes to grow?
- How to plant a sour cherry bush in 10 easy steps
- When is the right time to harvest sour cherry bushes?
- How to preserve your harvest of cherries
- The best way to pit cherries is to preserve as much fruit as possible
- The best sour cherry recipe we know
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 are edible and delicious, picked straight from the bush.
However, you will enjoy them more in pies, jams, cordials, or cakes. And you can still reap the benefits of all their health properties, albeit we add a little sugar to sweeten the palate!
But a sour cherry bush also delivers on decoration. An abundance of small white flowers appears every spring on every branch and twig.
Sour cherry bushes look great standing solitary. And 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
Here are six main rules to help you succeed and have thriving sour cherry bushes in your garden:
- Do not plant in water-logged or soggy soil with bad drainage. The root hates to get water-logged.
- Water regularly when first planted
- Do not water in winter
- Feed the bush during the springtime
- Keep the weeds away from directly under the bush
- 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 gardens.
Montmorency cherries are named for a region in France where they originate from. Today they are primarily 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 any time of year, as long as you dig the ground.
- Choose a sunny spot in your garden. To ripen the fruit, you need as much sun as possible.
- Dig a hole around 50cm deep and 1 meter wide.
- Blend in a sack of tree and bush soil and turn over with a fork. Ideally, a cherry bush likes soil with a pH value of around 6.
- Add 2 dl of liquid feed suitable for trees and bushes and a couple of handfuls of grass clippings if you have some.
- Place the plant into the hole so that the base is level with the top of the hole and fill the hole with more new soil. Press firmly around the base and water well.
- The bush’s base should be at least 1 meter in diameter and be kept weed free.
- Do not sow any other plants or flowers or even grass under the bush. The area should be kept completely clear.
- 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.
- Feed the bush with your compost, a good quality liquid feed, or chicken pellets every summer.
- As soon as the fruit appears, cover it 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 well when frozen.
Pit the cherries first, place them in freezer bags in manageable batches and defrost for a couple of hours when you need them.
Drying sour cherries
We love to use 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 is to preserve as much fruit as possible
We’ve all tried to pit cherries in preparation for cooking and get to the one that won’t budge from the surrounding flesh.
Cherry pitters can be bought at most quality cook shops. When harvesting your cherries from your garden, it’s a good idea to invest in a good cherry pitter that can pit many cherries simultaneously.
If you don’t have one, try poking a thin 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 for using sour cherries:
Sour cherry crumble with salt flakes
- 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!)
- A small amount of butter to butter the dish
- 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!)
- Set the oven to 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 coarse bread crumbs.
- Stir in the salt flakes and place in the fridge while you make the filling.
- Use washed and pitted fresh cherries. Melt the butter in a large frying pan.
- On medium heat, and the cherries and 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 it to cool slightly before serving warm with whipped vanilla cream or ice cream.
- It’s also delicious cold for breakfast the next day!