Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

cherry a favoured fruit of painters and poets. True cherries, of which there are several species, belong to the genus Prunus, which also includes plums, peaches, apricots, and almonds, all in the rose family. Cultivated cherries are descended from two wild species: Prunus avium, ancestor of the sweet varieties; and P. cerasus, from which sour cherries come. Both are native to W. Asia.

The sweet cherry was described in about 300 BC by the Greek writer Theophrastus. It and the sour cherry were probably both being cultivated in the Mediterranean area before this time. The ancient Greek name kerasos, from which ‘cherry’ is derived, has been said to come from the city of that name in Asia Minor (now Giresun in Turkey); but it is more probable, as Casaubon first pointed out in his great edition (1597–1600) of Athenaeus, that the city took its name from the fruit.