2015-07-23 / From The Garden

Montmorency Cherries, Sour But Sweet

By Cynthia Gibson


The cherry tree needs to be completely netted or else the wildlife will have cherries jubilee. (Photos by Cynthia Gibson) The cherry tree needs to be completely netted or else the wildlife will have cherries jubilee. (Photos by Cynthia Gibson) The sour cherry season is here and will likely end within the next two weeks. Farmer’s markets or the wonderful roadside stands are your best bet of where to find them; sour cherries are not sold in supermarkets, because they are too perishable.

All of this means that this delicate ruby red orb is a coveted treasure for the culinary minded. When picked you are looking at a bowl of edible rubies. And they are equally as valuable. Difficult to find and only ripe for three weeks of picking each summer, they are best for making preserves, conserves, sauces, and of course the best cherry pie.

Make a batch of conserves and you are in essence making your own pie filling. A stockpile of jars of these cherries are prized during the winter. Just give it a quick thought: cherry pie in January.

The best and most famous sour cherry is the Montmorency. I bought my tree at Chaves Gardens 10 years ago and it is a gem. The Montmorency cherry, native to China, found its way to Montmorency, France, a small suburb nine miles from the center of Paris. The French Impressionist Camille Pissarro immortalized these glorious cherry trees when they were in bloom in springtime in Montmorency.

This famous sour cherry is also versatile. Not only is it the best cherry for cherry pie, in France its season finds the cherry in many desserts and, as it turns out, entrées. A friend who came to pick cherries the other day said she planned to use them to prepare Magret de Canard (duck breast) Montmorency, which is one of the more elegant dishes that exists.

The sour cherry made its way to America in 1600 and found a hospitable growing environment in Michigan and Wisconsin. The two states grow over 95 percent of the sour cherries in America; Michigan produces more than 90,000 tons each year.


Pick – wash – pit – preserve. Pick – wash – pit – preserve. Filled with antioxidants, cherries are being looked at as a "super" fruit much like blackberries, blueberries, black currants and pomegranates. It is so rewarding to grow these old fashioned heritage varieties–and it is thrilling to see their return.





Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport.

Return to top