Cherries are a particular favourite with Copas Farms’ Pick Your Own Customers.
When deciding which cherry trees to plant there are two decisions to make. Firstly, you must choose the root stock. This is the rooting system and the stub of the tree which will determine the height and vigour of the tree. Secondly, you must choose the scion. This forms the upper trunk and the branches which will determine the variety of cherry to be produced. These two elements are then grafted together to form the tree. If you look carefully it is sometimes still possible to see where the trees are grafted, usually about 15cm above the ground where the tree bulges.
At Copas Farms we select dwarf root stock to produce smaller trees to make picking accessible from the ground, and a wide variety of scions to extend the picking season. The newer orchards are planted with trees spaced at 4.5 metre intervals. The trees are planted in the Autumn while the trees are in a dormant state and it will take three years before any meaningful crop is produced. In the early years of the crop the branches are tied to the ground to train the branches to form a lower canopy.
As the trees grow they will be pruned regularly to reduce the height and create a good shaped tree. Pruning generally takes place while the trees are blossoming as at this time of year the tree sap is rising and this helps to prevent disease getting into the trees through the cuts. Over time, as the trees mature, every other row will be removed to give the trees more space to continue to grow. At our Iver Pick Your Own farm some of the cherry trees are over 100 years old.
Cherries are a very ‘hit and miss’ crop to grow with a number of crucial hurdles to overcome. The first risk is a frost while the tree is in blossom as this can kill the fruit bud and has the potential to wipe out the crop for the year. If the crop survives the frost the next problems is from birds. Cherries are a big favourite with starlings, pigeons and more recently parakeets. Finally the last risk is heavy rainfall while the fruit is ripening as this can result in the tree absorbing too much water which causes the fruit to swell and the skin to split. This only affects the appearance and thankfully the taste is not altered. Due to all of these risks every cherry that is produced is very special to the Copas Farms team.
VARIETIES GROWN AT COPAS FARMS PICK YOUR OWN:
- Early Varieties: Hertfod, JI14039, Merchant and Pat.
- Mid Season Varieties: Star Krimson, Sasha, Stella and Sunburst.
- Late Season Varieties: Colney.
- Root Stock: Colt.
- Do not climb trees or break branches. This is not only dangerous, it also reduces future cropping potential
- Choose firm cherries and pick carefully with stems attached. This will keep the cherries fresher for longer.
- Once picked keep the cherries cool.
- It is best not to wash cherries until they are ready to eat.
- Suitable for freezing but best to remove the stones first.
A bowl full of sweet cherries is brimming with health benefits. They are naturally low in fat and calories and free of both cholesterol and sodium. They are also a good source of dietary fibre, vitamin C, potassium and contain boron. Boron is a mineral that helps maintain calcium balance and promote bone health.
- The cherry has a long noble history stretching back to the Romans. Cherry trees are often found alongside Roman roads, grown from the pips spat out by the Legionaires.
- The Latin name for the sweet cherry is prunus avium, meaning plum and bird, possibly due to birds’ notorious love of cherries.
- Cherry trees are a valuable host for mistletoe and lichens and the Spring blossom provides an important source of nectar and food for birds, butterflies and insects.
- There are now more than 1000 varieties of cherry worldwide—about 900 sweet and 300 acid. The Copas family is responsible for three cherry varieties – Copas Discovery (a large dark cherry), Copas Red (a white cherry) and Copas Late (a dark cherry that came late in the season). None of these are in commercial production.
COOKING AND EATING
Cherries, with their succulent texture, flavour and gorgeous looks, are a true Summer delight. The juice of the flesh can be sweet or sour depending on which variety they are. Cherries are actually divided into three groups – sweet, sour and hybrids. As a general rule pale cherries are sweet and dark cherries are more acidic.
Sweet cherries are more suitable for eating whilst sour cherries are great in tarts, pies, crumbles, jams and sauces.