We had one main requirement when choosing our Tree of the Month for March - we wanted a tree that really encapsulated the best things about spring; longer days, more sunlight and the plant life around us waking up after the lengthy winter sleep.
And we quickly realised there was only one contender. It just had to be a Sunburst Cherry Tree. Cherries are really beautiful Spring tree's, and we went with the Sunburst variety in particular because of its evocative name.
Most varieties of sweet cherry are native to the Northern Hemisphere, America, Europe and Western Asia. It is fair to say that our love affair with cherries has gone on for a while, as Cherries have been consumed by humans since prehistoric times. They were first introduced to England in the 16th Century by the order of Henry VIII, who had developed a taste for them while in Flanders.
The Sunburst Cherry tree is a modern variety which was developed in Canada, by crossing two other Canadian varieties of Cherry tree; the Stella Cherry and the Van Cherry
Today, the Cherry tree is popular the world over for its sweet stoned fruits, but also because it grows particularly exquisite spring blossoms. In Asia, cherry blossom is held in such high regard that an entire subspecies of cherry tree has been cultivated, which can be traced right back to the 15th century. This subspecies is called The Japanese Cherry (Prunus serrulata) and it is purely ornamental, so does not grow fruit at all.
Sweet cherry trees are also prized for their hard wood, which is a beautiful deep red colour and creates stunning furniture and musical instruments
How to Cook/Eat
The Sunburst Cherry tree grows deep red/black fruits which are soft and easy to pick. The cherries themselves have an exceptional flavour, and are renowned for being very sweet. Sunburst Cherries work excellently in all the types of desserts; try making them into jam, creating a fruity topping for a cheesecake or popping a handful of whole cherries into a sponge cake mixture.
However, because Sunburst cherries are so sweet, they also work well in dishes where you are trying to create a balance of sweet and sour or savoury. For example, try cooking your cherries in some balsamic vinegar and star anise to serve with meaty dishes such as roasted duck or venison. Or poach your cherries in red wine to serve with cream or ice cream. They also go beautifully with salted chocolate.
Care Advice and Tips
Sunburst cherries were the first cherry to be created which was entirely self fertile! This means that you only need one tree to produce cherries, making the Sunburst Cherry a really good option for the home grower. Cherry trees prefer to be planted in really rich, deep and fertile soil, with a PH balance of around 6.5. If you want to make sure your cherries grow really big and juicy, make sure you provide your tree with plenty of water and food throughout the growing season.