English cherries in 1829

The cherry is a native of most temperate countries of the northern hemisphere. The small black cherry is found not only in some parts of England, but even in places among the Scottish mountains, where it too would be difficult to imagine them to have been carried. It is said that the first of the present cultivated sorts was introduced about the time of Henry VIII, and were originally planted at Sittingborne, in Kent. The cherry orchards are of Kent are still celebrated. It seems, however, that they were known much earlier; at any rate, cherries were sold about London before the middle of the 16th century. The commencement of the season was announced by one carrying a branch or twig loaded with the fruit. Our present popular song of "cherry ripe", is a slightly altered version of a composition of the time of Charles I.

The wild cherry, of which there are many varieties, is a much more hardy tree than any of the ones that produce fine fruit; and it is therefore cultivated for stocks upon which to graft the others, as trees so grafted attain a larger size, are more durable, and less subject to disease. At some of the ruined Abbeys and baronial castle walls there are often cherry trees, chiefly black ones, which have obtained the height of sixty or eighty feet, and which continue to produce great quantities or fruit. These ancient sorts are not confined to the warmer parts of the country, but are met with in some of the northern counties of Scotland.

The cherry is believed to have been brought to Rome from Armenia about 60 years before the Christian era. Such was the fondness for the fruit, that a Pliny says, "in less than 120 years, other lands had cherries, even as far as Britain". We think that the wild cherry is indigenous to France, and nor can we help thinking, from the situations in which we have seen wild cherries, that the same is the case both with England and the other parts of the United Kingdom.

Several liqueurs are manufactured from cherries. Black cherry us are generally the best part flavoured for this.

The whole of of the genus "prunus"produce what is commonly called gum, that of the cherry tree being the best. There are about 200 varieties of cherry cultivated in England.

Summarised from an article published in 1829

Nigel Deacon, Diversity website

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