Wild Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)
Wild black cherries are part of the rose family. It’s tough to harvest enough to use for a recipe, because they are so delicious on their own!
Wild black cherry trees are often found near fields or other sunny areas. The trees can be more than 80 feet tall and 2 feet in diameter. The bark of the black cherry tree has small, white, horizontal stripes or spots on the bark (called lenticels). If you scrape away the bark on a leaf branch, it will smell like sweet almonds. The leaves of the wild black cherry are shiny, dark green, and ovate in shape. The underside of the leaves have small, fuzzy, rusty colored hairs on the mid vein. These hairs aren’t always visible, but if they are, it is a sure sign that the tree you have found is a wild black cherry. The berries themselves are a dark purple, black color and are about one centimeter in diameter. The berries grow in clusters on red stalks, and contain small pits. The berries are usually ripe in mid-late August.
If the berries are ripe, they will sometimes start to fall and you can gather the freshly fallen ones and place them in a bag or basket. You can also harvest the berries by shaking the branches, which will cause them to fall to the ground. If you can reach the berries, you can pick them by hand.
Benefits and Uses
Wild black cherries, like most berries, are high in vitamins and antioxidants and have a sweet and astringent flavor that is delicious. Brittany loves to eat the cherries on their own, but just be careful, as they do have pits. The berries also are wonderful in jams, sauces, and reductions. These preparations are great because the pits can be strained out. You can also make wild black cherry juice by macerating berries with water and sugar, honey, or lemon.