Beautiful plant with edible fruit… wonderful combination!
Common Name: Cornelian Cherry, European Cornel
Scientific Name: Cornus mas
The Cornelian Cherry “cherry” (aka “cornel”)
Description: Cornelian Cherry is really a edible form of a Dogwood. The fruit are small, bright red (although the color can range from almost white to yellow to orange to deep violet depending on the cultivar), and taste like tart cherries/plum/cranberry when ripe, but can be astringent if picked too early. These trees produce an abundance of flowers that last for many weeks, and while they bloom early in the season, they don’t seem to be bothered much by late frosts. Cornelian Cherries produce beautiful flowers, and they are a great food producing, ornamental addition to any garden or yard.
- Likely native to the Black Sea region (near Turkey).
- Ancient Greek literature states that it was used as pig food.
- Historically used as a food source throughout its native region and as it spread through Europe.
- Eventually fell out of favor as larger fruits became available.
- Has been used extensively in Europe, the UK, and U.S. as an ornamental landscape plant.
- Cornelian Cherry fruit are called “cherries” or “cornels”
- Cornelian Cherry wood is so dense it will not float. This trait makes it good for tool handles.
- Turkey is one of the few countries that cultivates Cornelian Cherries in large quantities today where it is used as a flavoring agent for many deserts
Cornelian Cherry preserves.
USING THIS PLANT
- Fresh eating.
- Baked good ingredient (e.g. tarts)
- Dried fruit
- Pickled fruit (kept in a brine like olives)
- Preserves, jams, jellies
- Liqueuer and Cordials
- Flavor component to cider and perry
- Seed (one single large seed per fruit) can be pressed to produce an edible oil
- Seeds can be dried and powdered for a coffee substitute
- Ornamental (beautiful yellow flowers in Spring)
- Food source for wildlife in summer
- Good early season nectar source for bees
- Wood is dense and hard (will not float) and used for tools
- Dye from the bark (and maybe other plant parts?)
- Medicinal uses
Yield: 30-50 pounds (13-22 kg)
Harvesting: Mid-Late Summer and Early Fall. Harvested when the fruits just begin to soften. They are still astringent (dry or puckering) and/or tart at this point, but this will fade when cooked or dried or even allowed to sit in a bowl for a few days. Or the fruit can be left on the tree a bit longer to ripen a bit more. Many growers will spread a sheet on the ground under the tree and give the branches a good shake; the ripe fruit will drop making harvesting much easier.
Storage: Cornelian Cherry fruit does not store well fresh.
AHS Heat Zone: 8-4
Chill Requirement: Likely, but no reliable data available for this.
Plant Type: Small Tree or Large Shrub
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Canopy Layer for small Forest Gardens, Sub-Canopy (Understory) Layer, or Large Shrub Layer (will be smaller in poor or dry soils or with regular pruning)
Cultivars/Varieties: Many named and unnamed varieties available. Make sure you choose a specific food variety if your desire is to produce fruits, otherwise you will have pretty, but poor fruit producing, plants.
Pollination: Self-Pollinating/Self-Fertile, but most will fruit better with cross-pollination
Flowering: Early Spring
Years to Begin Bearing: 3-13 years from cuttings or grafting, up to 20 years from seed
Years of Useful Life: 150-200 (can be much less for cutting/grafted plants)
Not a great photo, but highlighting the color and shape variation of Cornelian Cherry fruit.
Leaves of Cornus mas are very similar to other Dogwoods.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT
Size: 13-20 feet (4-6 meters) tall and wide
Roots: No reliable information
Growth Rate: Medium
GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT
Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Tolerates light shade, but produces more fruit in full sun
pH: prefers fairly neutral to alkaline soil (6.1 – 8.5)
Special Considerations for Growing: Cornelian Cherry will produce better if planted in a more sheltered location.
Propagation: Usually grafted for the fruit to produce as the parent stock. Germination of seed can take over a year at times. Can be propagated through cuttings (has a pretty high success rate) and layering (can take over 9 months) from new growth.
Maintenance: Minimal once established which can take 1-3 years.
Concerns: No significant concerns. Few pests.