and how it has been used in different cultures
A cherry is a juicy, succulent and enticing stone fruit with a vibrant red or yellow hue, numerous seeds and a sweet, slightly tart flavor. Bursting with history and symbolism, cherries have been heralded for centuries in a multitude of cultures.
In Greek mythology, the story of “Pandora’s Box” revolves around a box containing all the evils of the world that are unleashed when it is opened. In some versions of the myth, the box contains a cherry tree, wrapped up in vines, signifying the presence of both good and bad in the world.
In Japan and China, cherries have been revered as symbols of warmth, beauty and life - they were offered to the gods and were a favorite gift of imperial dynasties. Japanese samurai believe that cherries signify strength and courage, and eating cherries is thought to bring luck and symbolize the preciousness of life. In some parts of Japan and China, people celebrate a holiday called “Sakura-matsuri” where they celebrate under a cherry blossom tree.
Cultural admiration for cherries dates back more than 2,000 years and can be found in literature and artwork from various civilizations. According to some accounts, cherry trees have grown wild in Europe since pre-Roman times. Cherries were first introduced to Europeans in the early 1600s and since then have become some of the most popular stone fruits around the world.
Back in Medieval Europe, cherries were also believed to have medicinal properties and were used as a remedy for ailments such as gout, malaria and scurvy. Cherry juice, in fact, was often used to treat these illnesses and even during the American Civil War, Union soldiers were given cherry juice as an anti-scorbutic.
In America, the cherry has come to symbolize youth and innocence. From the world of literature to film and television, the cherry is frequently depicted in stories to represent the fragility and beauty of youth and life’s fleeting moments of joy and innocence.
That being said, the cherry is certainly not just reserved for its symbolic properties. In culinary arts, the cherry’s succulent taste, unique texture, and vibrant colors have been used for centuries to create a wide array of dishes.
In the United States, cherries are most commonly enjoyed baked into pastries, pies, cobblers, and tarts - a combination of sweet and tart that is truly delectable. Sour cherries, especially, tend to freeze, can, or dried and often used to make sauces and jams.
The cherry is also beloved in drinks and beverages. From summertime coolers to wintery hot toddys, a splash of cherry juice or a garnish of a fresh cherry instantly makes any drink a little more special. The tart yet sweet flavor of a cherry can truly make a drink stand out and tantalize taste buds with its sophisticated flavor.
Cherries are also incredibly versatile fruits and can used in a countless number of savory dishes. Chopped cherries can be added to salads, grilled meats and poultry dishes, or made into sauces which are ideal for pork, beef, and fish. Dried cherries can also be used to make an amazing range of sauces for anything from roasted meats to pastas and risottos.
No matter how you choose to enjoy a cherry, one thing is certain - it’s an ancient and timeless fruit, adored by cultures around the world and cherished for its distinct flavor, vibrant colors, and unique culinary and symbolic uses. So next time you’re in the mood for something sweet, take some time to indulge in the history and flavor of the cherry.