Plant for flashy flowers and strong tools, for distilling liquor or cooling sharbat, for dried fruit and tart sauce, and to maintain your nutritional essence!
Hardy from Zones 4-8. 13-20 feet tall and wide.
The edible Dogwood! Cornelian Cherry comes from southern Europe and southwest Asia, possibly cultivated first in the Black Sea region. It’s a small tough tree needing minimal care, unless you want to prune for shape and size. The tree takes its time when grown from seed to produce berries, but they’re worth the wait!
In early spring Cornelian Cherry burst in dazzling yellow flowers, opening soon after Forsythia in our neck of the woods. The flowers last for a long time and are an excellent early nectar source, as well as a beautiful landscaping plant with the bonus of fruit! The shiny red fruit look a little like coffee berries but taste something like a cross between cherries and cranberries. They’ll pucker your mouth, but the tartness fades a tad when cooked or dried. Cornelian Cherries are very popular in Eastern Europe as a sauce, dried fruit or leather, and wine, and the seeds are dried and powdered or pressed for oil. In Armenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina the fruits are distilled into liquors like vodka and rakia, a popular Balkan fruit brandy. Turkish farmers cultivate large orchards to flavor dessert and Turkish and Iranian snacks call for Cornelian Cherries with a little salt or chilled as sharbat, a sweet drink often served as a break from Ramadan fasting. Cornelian Cherry has long been an important piece of traditional Chinese medicine. The berries help preserve jing, or nutritional essence associated with the kidney and one of the Three Treasures.
Like many Dogwoods, Cornelian Cherry is very dense wood well-suited for tool handles. Ancient Greek farmers used the berries as pigfeed and craftspeople used the wood as early as the 7th century BCE to make bows and spears, believing it better than any other wood. In fact, the Greek name for the tree was a poetic synonym for “spear.” Italian herdsfolk of the Maremma region, the butteri, made their uncino, or herding sticks, from cornel wood. But don’t use the wood to make canoes! Cornelian Cherry is so dense that it sinks in water!
We propagate our Cornelian Cherry from seed from trees at a nearby university. Our trees are planted in full sun to ripen fruit. Shake the tree onto tarps or blankets for quick easy harvesting!