Sour cherry – intolerance & allergy

Sour cherries

The sour cherry is a cultivated plant with red fruits that has been known since ancient times. The drupes contain many vitamins and antioxidants . They are very popular as fresh fruit, spreads and cake ingredients.

Here’s what you should know about sour cherries

Like its relative, the wild cherry (also called sweet cherry), the sour cherry belongs to the genus “Prunus” (Latin for plum tree ). This name already shows that all known stone fruit plants, such as cherries, almonds , peaches , plums and nectarines , belong to this genus. According to genetic analyses, the sour cherry originated as a mixed form (bastard) from the wild cherry (Prunus avium) and the steppe cherry (Prunus fruticosa) on the border of eastern Turkey and Iran.

According to legend, the Roman general Lucullus brought this plant to Italy from the city of Kerasus, after which it is named. From there it spread across the entire northern hemisphere. The cherry does not grow in the tropics because it needs a frost period as a ripening signal. This is to prevent the flowers from appearing in autumn and then freezing to death. The sour cherry grows as a tree or shrub and can reach a height of 4 – 10 meters. Its trunk is red-brown, smooth and shiny and covered with many characteristic cork pores (lenticels). The leaves are ovate-elliptical and serrate on the edge (serrated like a saw). They are 6 to 10 cm long, up to 5 cm wide and are light green. The flowers emerge in clusters of 2 to 4 flowers and are arranged side by side in umbels.

At the base of the inflorescence there are stipules, by which one can distinguish the sour cherry from the bird cherry. Like almost all trees, the sour cherry is a hermaphrodite and has both pistils and pollen sacs. It is interesting that the sour cherry, in contrast to the sweet cherry, can pollinate itself and does not need any external pollinators (wind, insects). It can also pollinate sweet cherry trees. It blooms from April to May and the characteristic red stone fruits, flattened at the top and bottom, are ripe in July.

The sour cherry is an important crop, many variations of which have been bred. It grows ideally on sandy, nutrient-rich soil. The largest producers of sour cherries are Turkey, Russia and Poland. Sour cherries are used in a variety of products. In Belgium there is even a sour cherry beer called “kriek lambic”.

importance to health

The red color of the cherry fruit is due to its high anthocyanin content. These substances from the class of polyphenols are found in all blue, red or violet fruits. Anthocyanins have a very strong antioxidant effect, ie they protect the cells from oxygen.

Oxygen, as can be seen in the browning of apples or the rusting of metal, has a powerful decomposing effect on many different substances. Cells protect themselves from aggressive oxygen atoms, also known as “ free radicals ”, with antioxidant substances such as ascorbic acid ( vitamin C ) or anthocyanins. In various laboratory studies, an anti-inflammatory effect of anthocyanins and related plant pigments could also be determined. They inhibit the enzyme cyclooxygenase , which produces the messenger substance prostaglandin , which is important for inflammation . Decreased production of prostaglandins results in less inflammation and less pain. In addition, the regular intake of anthocyanins can protect against vascular calcification ( arteriosclerosis ) and reduce the growth of certain types of cancer.

In contrast to other polyphenols, the anthocyanins of the cherry are not toxic even in high concentrations. Tart cherries naturally contain the hormone melatonin , which is produced in the human brain and regulates the waking and sleeping rhythm there. Problems falling asleep and staying asleep can therefore be improved by eating cherries or cherry juice. Cherry juice has also been used successfully against sore muscles and disorders of the fat metabolism. But even without acute health problems, eating Prunus cerasus is worthwhile, as it contains a large amount of vitamins and minerals .

Ingredients & nutritional values

A 100g serving of tart cherries contains 12.2g carbohydrate (sugar), 0.3g fat, 1g protein and 86.5g water. In terms of vitamins, each fruit contains significant amounts of vitamin A , which is important for eye function, as well as vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9. In addition, there is the antioxidant vitamin C and vitamin K , which is essential for the function of blood and bones . Important minerals such as calcium , magnesium and phosphorus are also found in the pulp. The calorific value of a portion of 100g sour cherries is 50 kcal or 209 kJ.

Intolerances & allergies

According to an American statistic, about 6-8% of all children and 3-4% of adults are allergic to tart cherries, which does not necessarily mean an allergy to sweet cherries. Symptoms range from throat and nose irritation to red eyes to diarrhea and nausea . The reasons for this are partly unclear, as no effective allergen (allergen-causing molecule) has been found in sour cherries.

However, a cross-reaction can occur in the presence of other allergies. This means that certain components of the tart cherry are similar to the allergenic substance. The immune system of those affected may also respond to the consumption of sour cherries. Cross-reactions have been documented in people who are allergic to birch pollen. Sour cherries can also be affected in the case of a nut allergy. However, tart cherries also help many allergy sufferers to improve their symptoms because of their anti-inflammatory effect.

Shopping & kitchen tips

Tart cherries are a seasonal fruit that cannot be grown in greenhouses. Therefore, sour cherries are only available from their ripening month of July until around early autumn. If you have the opportunity, you should pick sour cherries yourself.

Children in particular like the task of picking the beautiful fruit from the tree, including putting it directly into their mouths. Despite their appetizing appearance, cherries, like all fruits, should be washed thoroughly before eating. Because the careless handling of fruit in the kindergartens has led to a renewed occurrence of parasites that were actually believed to have been eradicated , such as worms. Since cherries have a large water content and no hard skin, they dry out if they are stored for a long time and can only be preserved for a long time if they are preserved.

Preparation tips

Cherries can be eaten fresh and are ideal for the preparation of many well-known types of cake such as Black Forest cake, Danube waves and cherry crumble cake. To preserve cherries, you can put them in water and sterilize them in the oven, put them in alcohol or freeze them at -18 °C. Of course, cherries can also be processed into jam, marmalade or jelly and thus preserved. There are many recipes and suggestions online.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.