Here at the Washington State Fruit Commission we spend 12 months a year working on telling the amazing story of our sweet cherries … even though they are only available for a three month window each summer. Below are some interesting fun facts associated with the sweet cherry:
- It is thought that sweet cherries originated in the region between the Black and the Caspian Seas.
- Cherry domestication dates to before recorded history.
- Cherries derive their name from the Turkish town of Cerasus.
- Turkey remains the largest cherry producing region in the world.
- Cherries migrated with the colonists from Europe in the 1600’s.
- In 1847, a man named Henderson Lewelling traveled from Iowa to western Oregon by ox cart. He brought with him nursery stock which became the first cherry trees planted in the Northwest.
- Seth Lewelling, Henderson’s younger brother, was responsible for the creation of the most famous sweet cherry variety grown today, the Bing, as well as the lesser known Black Republican and Lincoln varieties. As a strong supporter of President Lincoln, Seth named his cherries accordingly.
- The Bing cherry is named after Seth Lewelling’s Manchurian orchard foreman and friend, Bing. Bing was over 7 feet tall.
- The Rainier cherry, named after Washington State’s famous volcanic peak, was created in 1972 by cross-breeding the Bing and Van varieties. The cherry was developed by Dr. Harold W. Fogle of Washington State University in Prosser, Washington.
- Washington State grows more sweet cherries than any other region in the nation.
- Cherries have the shortest period between flower blossom and harvest of any tree fruit (60-75 days).
- The maraschino cherry was created from sweet cherries.
- This famous dessert cherry originated on the Balkan Peninsula and northern Italy where merchants would add liqueur to a local cherry called the Marasca. The cherry product that resulted was imported into the United States in the 1890’s.
- In 1896, U.S. cherry processors began experimenting with a domestic sweet cherry. Less liqueur was used in the processing and almond oil was added. Eventually, the liqueur was eliminated altogether. By 1920, the American maraschino cherry was so popular that it had replaced the foreign variety in the United States.
- Broadway in New York shifts west at East 10th Street because a cherry tree once stood there.
- There are more than 1,000 varieties of cherries in the United States, but fewer than 10 are produced commercially.
- At one time it was against the law to serve ice cream on cherry pie in Kansas.
- The earliest known mention of cherries is in Theophrastus (372-272 B.C) “History of Plants” in which he indicated that cherries had been cultivated for hundreds of years in Greece.
- The Philosopher Pliny suggested that the Roman general Lucullus introduced cherries to Europe around 74 BC, but some research suggests that cherries were known in Italy at a much earlier date.
- It is said that Lucullus committed suicide when he realized he was running out of cherries.
- Cherries are related to plums and more distantly to peaches and nectarines.
- Cherry pits have been found in several Stone Age caves in Europe.
- King Charles V of France planted over one thousand cherry trees in his gardens at St. Paul and Tournelle in the mid 1300’s.
Q: On average, how many cherries can be found in 1 pound of cherries? A: 65
Q: How did the Rainier variety, the yellow cherry with the red blush, get its name? A: Developed in 1972, the Rainier Cherry is named after Mt. Rainier, an icon of the state of Washington where the cherry was developed.
Q: What is the number one export market for sweet cherries grown in Washington? A: Canada
Q: When is National Rainier Cherry Day? A: July 11th
Q: What is the sweet cherries most important contribution to improving human health? A: Sweet cherries are found to reduce inflammation. Human feeding trials point to the fact that cherries really do strengthen the immune system and help fight diseases like gout and arthritis.