Outdoors Journal: Choke cherries

  • Article by: JIM GILBERT
  • Updated: July 15, 2011 - 12:53 AM

CHOKE CHERRY FRUIT

Clusters of red to dark purple choke cherries are ripening in southern Minnesota. This is a bitter fruit about the size of a large green pea that can be found on the edges of forests and fields, in thickets, on stream banks and along fencerows. Your outdoor education has been neglected if you never have picked the berries from the bushes and eaten them.

The choke cherry is a large shrub or small tree, seldom reaching over 20 feet in height, with three noteworthy characteristics: First, it is reported to be the most widespread species of tree in North America, growing from Alaska and Canada, throughout the states and into Mexico. Second, the cherries are among the most important wildlife foods, eaten by dozens of bird species such as grouse, American robins and eastern bluebirds, as well as mammals such as black bears, gray foxes and chipmunks. Third, the fruit makes one of the most tart, refreshing jellies ever tried on fresh corn bread. Also, the cherries make an unusual tasting and invigorating hot weather drink; mash the fresh-picked fruit clusters, drain the juice and add water and sugar.

JIM GILBERT

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