I came home to cherry blossoms on Monday.I was overly optimistic in the purchase of a cherry pitter last year, but perhaps this is the year. Cherry trees have a bad reputation in New England. They’re more susceptible than other fruit trees to frost, disease, and bugs. They’re also taller than all the other fruit trees, making them almost impossible to pick outside of a commercial enterprise. A bad combination.
But they sound so good! Cherry blossoms! Fresh cherries! No, resist the urge. There are viable alternatives. I recommend ground cherries, cornelian cherries, and the object of this post, the bush cherry, also called Nanking Cherry. All of these cherry alternatives are a lot easier to grow and to pick. I was first introduced to Nanking Cherries by Lee Reich in his awesome book, Landscaping with Fruit. I checked it out of the library enough times that I finally just went out and bought it. I fact, I reviewed it in this post last year.
According to Lee, unlike a traditional cherry tree, the bush cherry is both cold and heat hearty, with no major disease or creepy crawly concerns. Some plants produce fruit over a long season, which is best for fresh eating. Some plants produce all of their fruit at once, which is best for cooking/preserving. The bush cherry will supposedly do the latter putting out one batch of cherry blossoms in the spring and one batch of fresh cherries in the summer. I have images in my head of a freezer full of cherries, which get added all year long to smoothies, pies, and cordials.
I bought 12 Nanking Cherries for $24 two seasons ago. Two didn’t make it, but at $2/bush, I wasn’t too fussed about it. The other 10 spent all of last year as scrubby little bushes with a few leaves. They are said to fruit in their 2nd or 3rd year, so I thought there was a chance for fruit. Hence my wasted purchase of a cherry pitter the preceding winter. But this year, with several of them in bloom, I see hope!
What I don’t see are bees. Is it just me or do many of the hardier plants flower before the bees come out for the season? What do you do about that? I really need to get hives… But in the meantime, I took a q-tip and went flower to flower, hoping I could simulate pollination. I also q-tipped the cornelian cherry and the peaches while I was at it.
I don’t suppose I’ll know the results for a while. Updates to follow in about 3 months 🙂