Cherry Tree

(Question)

Hi,
I have a cherry tree at the back of my house.
I do not know what type of cherry this is.
Do you know if I can eat them or not?

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(Answer)

If your home is in one of the older areas of Toronto, and your tree is a mature specimen, it is very likely that you have an edible cherry.  Your cherry fruit, with its bright red skin and firm yellow flesh, could be the hardy sour cherry, Montmorency.  All sour cherries are self-fruitful, which means they will set fruit with their own pollen and do not need cross-pollination with another tree.  Montmorency’s fruit ripens in mid-to-late June.  Only some sweet cherry varieties are self-fruitful, one popular variety being the Stella, whose fruit is large and deep red.

Ornamental cherries are of the same genus, Prunus, but they are quite different from their edible relatives, and the main characteristic that separates them is their fruit, which is generally very small, usually nearly black in colour, and inedible.  Some varieties of ornamental cherry are sterile, which means that they do not produce fruit at all.  Some varieties do produce a fruit that is edible, but not particularly tasty.

Interestingly, many plants from the genus Prunus (including the common cherry) are cyanogenic. However, the compound is limited only to the bark, leaves and pit of the fruits.

Should you eat the fruit of your cherry tree?  It makes sense to be sure of what you have first.  If you are in the vicinity of the Toronto Botanical Garden, you could bring a sample of the leaves and fruit to the advice clinic that the Toronto Master Gardeners offer every Thursday afternoon between 2 and 7 p.m.