You may have looked at a cherry and wondered, “Is it a fruit or a berry?” Cherries look a lot like other fruits typically considered berries, such as strawberries, or blueberries. Cherries are small and brightly colored. Plus, they taste just as sweet as any other berry. However, they actually have more in common with a different sub-category of fruit that might surprise you. Here’s everything you need to know about the botanical classification of cherries.
What is the Cherry’s Botanical Classification?
Contrary to popular belief, cherries are not considered a berry. Berries include any fleshy fruit that has many seeds. The sub-category of berries branches off into two main different types: hesperidium and Cucurbitaceae. The first comprises citrus fruits with leathery rinds. The second includes tough-skinned fruits, also referred to as pepos, such as watermelons, cucumbers, and gourds. Surprisingly, many fruits typically considered berries are not actually berries, including raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries. Instead, these are classified as aggregate fruits because they consist of a number of smaller fruits clumped together. Cranberries and blueberries, however, are true berries.
Cherries are actually classified as a type of fruit called a drupe. Drupes consist of thin skin, a fleshy body, a hard stone, and an inner seed. They’re often referred to as “stone fruits” due to the hard stone in the middle. The part of the fruit that you eat is called the mesocarp. It features a juicy and sweet taste to encourage animals to eat the fruit and spread the seeds.
The defining factor of a drupe, the stone or endocarp, is designed to be nearly impenetrable to protect the seed inside. When the seed lands in good quality dirt with plenty of sunlight and rain, the seeds sprouts and cracks the stone, allowing a new plant to form. The seeds of stone fruits also contain a poison, so it’s important to never eat large quantities of stone fruit seeds. They contain a chemical called amygdalin, which breaks down into hydrogen cyanide when ingested. However, you’d have to eat many stone fruit seeds to make you sick.
Some common stone fruits include peaches, nectarines, plums, dates, mangoes, and apricots. Surprisingly, nuts like walnuts, almonds, and even coconuts are also considered drupes. Raspberries and blackberries are also technically classified as drupes due to their crunchy seeds in the middle. Due to the fact that they grow as a cluster of tiny drupes grouped closely together, they’re also classified as aggregate fruits.
History of the Cherry
Cherries were brought to America with early settlers in the 1600s. Later, French colonists planted cherry trees in the Great Lakes area, near established such cities as Detroit, Vincennes, and other midwestern settlements.
Modern-day cherry production began in the mid-1800s. A Presbyterian missionary named Peter Dougherty planted cherry trees in Michigan in 1852. These trees flourished due to freezing winds in winter and cool breezes off the Great Lakes in the summer. Cherry orchards also flourished in the northwestern part of the United States, especially in western Oregon.
Today, the United States cherry industry produces more than 650 million pounds of cherries each year. Most of the cherries come from Michigan and the Northwest. In fact, Michigan produces 75 percent of the tart cherry crop, while Oregon and Washington grow 60 percent of the sweet cherry crop.
If you want to get your cherry fix, consider our Fabbri Wild Cherry Cheesecake. It features deep red, tart cherries combined with smooth, creamy Tennessee Cheesecake. Or, check out some fresh fruit in our Fruit Favorites box that delivers a delightful assortment of farm-fresh fruit right to your doorstep, including strawberries, melon, bananas, oranges, grapes, and so much more.
Cherry Nutrition Facts
Though quite small, cherries are actually packed with nutrition. They contain high amounts of fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. They’re also high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which can help fight oxidative stress and reduce inflammation. In fact, studies have found that the antioxidants in tart cherry juice and concentrate can accelerate muscle recovery and decrease delayed-onset muscle pain.
Cherries also promote heart health due to their high presence of heart-healthy nutrients and compounds. Cherries have also been found to help those with gout as they can actually decrease uric acid levels in your body. Additionally, eating cherries can help improve your sleep quality. Cherries contain melatonin, in addition to numerous plant compounds, that help regulate your sleep-wake cycle.
You might be surprised to learn that cherries are not considered berries. Instead, they are botanically considered a drupe and are more similar to peaches and nectarines than berries.