There are over 1000 types of cherries found in the United States. If you’re a cherry enthusiast, you may be curious to know if all cherries are edible. A few cherry types stand out in farmer’s markets grocery stores, but you usually can’t find the green-lettered logo nearby. So, how do you identify cherry types, and are all cherries edible?
This short guide is your go-to for identifying edible and non-edible cherries. Let’s dive in.
Are All Cherries Edible?
It can be tempting to pick and snack on a few cherries if you come across a cherry tree. Two very common wild cherry trees in North America are the Black Cherry and Chokecherry.
Generally, cherries are safe fruit to eat, but you’ll need to avoid the fruit pits, leaves, barks, and stems — as these parts of the plant can be toxic.
Types of Edible Cherries
While there are many types of edible cherries, here we’ve shared our favorites.
Dark Red Cherry
Dark red cherries are sweet-tasting and incredibly juicy. These delicious cherries can be eaten as fresh cherries after rinsing or used in any dish to add fruitiness.
Here are some dark red cherry varieties:
- Attika cherry,
- Bing cherry
- Benton cherry
- Santina cherry
- Tieton cherry
- Skeena cherry
- Cowiche cherry
- Regina cherry
- Lapins cherry
- Kiona cherry
- Selah cherry
When most people imagine cherries, they think of red-colored fruit.
Many of these cherry types are tart or sour in flavor, making them perfect for use in sweets and baked treats, like cherry pie. The tartiest cherry varieties are also pressed into cherry juice or made into dried cherries.
A few red cherry varieties are;
- Lambert cherry
- Montmorency cherry
- Morella cherry
“Sour cherry” isn’t just a flavor of candy – it’s also a variety of the cherry from which it gets its name! As mentioned previously, sour cherries are the cherry type most often pressed into cherry juice or made into dried cherries for use in cooking.
Some types of sour cherries include:
- Montmorency tart cherry
- Morello cherry
The majority of dark red cherries also have a sweet flavor. Only a few things are more satisfying than a handful of fresh sweet cherries on a summer’s day.
A few cherry other types of cherries also have a sweet flavor. These include;
- Rainier cherry, named for Washington state’s Mount Rainier
- Stardust cherry
Both these cherries are yellow in color, with a pink blush. This pink blush means that they are not only sweet to eat; they’re also nice to look at.
Besides Rainier Cherry and Stardust Cherry, another yellow cherry variety is called the Early Robin cherry.
These are the lightest colored cherries of all. Due to their lightness, it’s difficult to hide bruises on the fruits. This is a great benefit to anyone buying cherries, as they can see which yellow cherries are damaged and which are in better shape.
Are there any Poisonous Cherries?
While the cherry flesh isn’t poisonous, all other parts of some wild cherries can be poisonous. For example, all cherries of the Prunus genus are poisonous. The seeds, twigs, or leaves of these cherries are toxic and should not be consumed.
You may be wondering what makes these parts of the cherry plants poisonous.
Here’s a quick answer:
These parts contain cyanogens, which are highly toxic and can be fatal if eaten. Cyanogens are changed into cyanide in damaged plant material or the gastrointestinal tracts of humans.
Knowing this, it’s important to keep your children away from wilted cherry tree leaves and seeds. While the flesh of wild cherries isn’t poisonous, some children might swallow the seeds of the fruit and suffer ill effects.
What cherries can you not eat?
According to the wildflower organization, a few poisonous and inedible cherry types include;
- Pin Cherry
- Fire Cherry
- Wild Red Cherry
- Bird Cherry
- Pigeon Cherry
- Eastern Black Cherry
How To Identify and Utilize Wild Cherry Trees
Risks of Eating Cherries on Hikes
Although cherries are usually safe to eat, it’s easy to confuse them with other fruits or berries in the wild. Unless you’re completely sure the fruit you found is safe to eat, it’s probably best to avoid eating any wild fruits on hikes.
If you’re on a hike with your children, keep an eye on any fruits they may see along the way. American berries, Holly berries, and Cotoneaster berries look extremely similar to cherries you may buy at the grocery store but can be harmful if you eat them.
Keep in mind that cherries are ripe between May and June, depending on the species. So, if you’re hiking in October and come across what resembles a cherry in the forest, you shouldn’t eat that fruit.