This post provides Nanking Bush Cherry Plant Information | Unique Edible Plants. The Nanking Bush Cherry, Prunus tomentosa, is another unique edible plant, in bush form, that is showy in the spring with flowers and in the summer with the bright red cherries clinging closely to the branches. It can be used as an ornamental, fruit producing shrub or as a wind break in a hedge row.
In mid-Spring the bush produces white or pink flowers that are fragrant and attract beneficial insects. They are partially self-pollinating, but do better with another variety around.
The red fruit is sweet and tart and taste like a cherry with a pit in the center. Since there are not a lot of named varieties in the US and most are propagated by seed, the flavors of the fruit seem to vary greatly. You can also find some plants online that have yellow or pink fruit, as I just did (and purchased.)
The fruit is very close to the stem on a very short stalk. The stalk usually stays on the branch leaving an opening on the fruit that will cause it to leak juice. This causes the fruit to not store well. The fruit can be used for fresh eating, dried fruit, fruit leather, preserves, jams, jellies pies, tarts, and fruit juice.
In a good year it can provide yields of up to 15 pounds per bush. The fruit is harvested in early to mid-summer depending on your location. Harvest the fruit when it is fully colored and juicy. The fruit that I have seen are about half the size of the cherries sold in stores.
The leaves are simple leaves that are obovate to elliptic with unequally toothed margins, dull dark green color and downy hair on the underside.
The Nanking Cherry (Prunus tomentosa) is a deciduous shrub that has a USDA hardiness zone of 2-7. It will grow to be 5-10 foot in height and width, prefers full sun but will tolerate a little shade and prefers neutral to slightly acidic soil. It was introduced in the US in 1892.
In the spring of 2014 I bought 10 seedlings and planed 4 in my Pasadena house and the rest on the farm. This summer I had two of the plants at the Pasadena house produce. Hopefully all of the plants will produce next year.
Propagation is done by seeds, layering, and cuttings. For seeds, clean the pulp off the pit and stratify for 2-3 months. Laying involves burying a portion of the tip or mid branch until it roots and then cutting it away from the main plant. Cuttings can be done with hard wood in the fall/winter or soft wood in the spring. This summer I had a 75% success rate with softwood cuttings in a mist bed.
Maple Whisky & Nanking Cherry Barbecue Sauce
(Recipe from http://dinnerwithjulie.com/2011/08/16/grilled-ribs-nanking-cherry-recipe/)
8 cups Nanking cherries, washed and stemmed
½ cup sugar
½ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp mustard powder (or 1 Tbsp grainy mustard)
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 cup brown sugar
1 ½ cups maple whiskey (from Highwood Distillers in Alberta)
In a large saucepan combine cherries and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until cherries have given up their juice. Remove from heat and push through a sieve to remove skins and pits. Return cherry juice to saucepan over medium heat, add all the dry ingredients, stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add 1 cup maple whiskey. Continue to simmer until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the final 1/2 cup whiskey. Cool and refrigerate in a sealed container.
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