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The word cherry refers to both the tree and the fleshy fruit (drupe) that contains a single stony seed. The cherry belongs to the family Rosaceae, genus Prunus, along with almonds, peaches, plums, apricots and bird cherries. The subgenus, Cerasus, is distinguished by having the flowers in small corymbs of several together (not singly, nor in racemes), and by having a smooth fruit with only a weak groove or none along one side. The subgenus is native to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, with two species in America, three in Europe, and the remainder in Asia. The word "cherry" comes from the French word "cerise," which comes in turn from the Latin words cerasum and Cerasus.
Additional recommended knowledge
The cherry is generally understood to have been brought to Rome from Persia. 
The cherries selected for eating are derived primarily from two species, the Wild Cherry (P. avium), which has given rise to the Sweet Cherry to which most cherry cultivars belong, and the Sour Cherry (P. cerasus), used mainly for cooking. Both species originate in Europa and western Asia; they do not cross-pollinate each other. The other species, although having edible fruit, are not grown extensively for consumption, except in northern regions where the two main species will not grow. Given the high costs of production, from irrigation, sprays and labour costs, in addition to their proneness to damage from rain and hail, the cherry is relatively expensive. Nonetheless, there is high demand for the fruit.
Major commercial cherry orchards in Europe extend from the Iberian peninsula east to Asia Minor; they are also grown to a smaller extent north of the British Isles and southern Scandinavia. In the United States, most sweet cherries for fresh use are grown in California and Washington. Important sweet cherry cultivars include 'Bing', 'Brooks', 'Tulare', 'King', and 'Rainier'. Oregon and Michigan provide light-coloured 'Royal Ann' ('Napoleon'; alternately 'Queen Anne') cherries for the maraschino cherry process. Most sour (also called tart) cherries are grown in four states bordering the Great Lakes, in Michigan (the largest producers of cherries among the states), New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, however, native and non-native cherries grow well in Canada (Ontario and British Columbia) as well. Sour cherries include Nanking and Evans Cherry. Traverse City, Michigan claims to be the "Cherry Capital of the World", hosting a National Cherry Festival and making the world's largest cherry pie. The specific region of Northern Michigan that is known the world over for tart cherry production is referred to as the "Traverse Bay" region. Farms in this region grown many varieties of cherries and companies like Traverse Bay Farms sell the fruit of the region. Likewise in Australia the New South Wales town of Young is famous nationwide as the "Cherry Capital of Australia", and also host The National Cherry Festival which is famous internationally. Popular varieties include the 'Montmorency', 'Morello', 'North Star', 'Early Richmond', 'Titans', 'Lamberts' and the very sweet and highly demanded 'Ron'.
Cherries have a very short fruiting season. In Australia they are usually at their peak around Christmas time, in southern Europe in June, in America in June, and in the UK in mid July, always in the summer season. In many parts of North America they are among the first tree fruits ripe; hence the colloquial term "cherry" to mean "new" or "the first", e.g. "in cherry condition".
Annual world production (as of 2003) of domesticated cherries is about 3 million tonnes, of which a third are sour cherries. Around 75 percent of the world production originates in Europe.
As well as the fruit, cherries also have attractive flowers, and they are commonly planted for their flower display in spring; several of the Asian cherries are particularly noted for their flower display. The Japanese sakura in particular are a national symbol celebrated in the yearly Hanami festival. Many flowering cherry cultivars (known as 'ornamental cherries') have the stamens and pistils replaced by additional petals ("double" flowers), so are sterile and do not bear fruit. They are grown purely for their flowers and decorative value. The most common of these sterile cherries is the cultivar 'Kanzan'. Cherry trees provide food for the caterpillars of several Lepidoptera. See List of Lepidoptera which feed on Prunus.
Cherries have been shown to have several health benefits. Cherries contain anthocyanins, which is the red pigment in berries. Cherry anthocyanins have been shown to reduce pain and inflammation. Anthocyanins are also potent antioxidants.
Cherries have also been shown to contain high levels of melatonin. Research has shown that people who have heart attacks have low melatonin levels . Besides being an anti-oxidant, melatonin has also been shown to be important for the function of the immune system. Research also indicates that melatonin suppresses COX-2.
There is considerable interest at present in the use of fresh cherries or cherry juice to treat gout - a painful inflammatory joint condition. 
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Cherry". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|