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Chokecherries, What are They Exactly?

Chokecherries are part of the wild cherry family. They are thornless trees and shrubs with clusters of white flowers followed by small, glossy, red to black fruit with single seeds. Chokecherries can be found in thickets and feilds from Canada to Kansas, and flower form April - July followed by fruit July - October. They are native to Michigan but were almost lost. Many people still remember there Grandmother's or Great Grandmother's making jelly from the fruit. 


Chokecherries got a bad rap years ago from farmers. The seeds and wilted leaves contain cyanide. As cows were grazing and ate the shrubs and trees the cyanide level built up in their systems and led to livestock losses. Farmers and Ranchers recognized the issue and began to remove the trees and shrubs from there pasture lands. This led to the almost complete eradication. But  they are making a comback in fields that have laid fallow and can still be found in thickets as well. 


We all know cyanide is poionous but people have memories of Chokecherry jelly....when cooked the cyanide is destoyed creating an edible product. Chokecherries lend themselves perfeclty for making jelly. There is not quite enough meat to the cherry once the pit is removed for pies but you could. The jelly has a very unique flavor, it starts out sweet like a cherry and ends tart almost like a lemon. The perfect balance of sweet and sour. 


They are healthy to boot, Chokecherries are high in antioxidants (anthocyanin pigments), vitamins and micronutrients. They have been used by the Indigenous People of North America and Settlers not only as a food source but also for its medicinal purposes. The roots, bark and berries have all been used in the treatment of everything form anxiety to colds, diarrhea and tuberculosis. The berries were specifically eaten to releave stomach issues and aid in digestion. 


Do you have your jar of Chokecherry jelly yet? 

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