For as long as I can remember, cherries have always been one of my favourite fruits to eat. The sweet but slightly sour taste that I like to eat in as many forms as possible – cherry jam, cherry pie (now there’s a great song!), apple and cherry crumble, pancakes with cherries and icecream, cherry chocolate liqueurs, or just a punnet of soft and juicy plain ones and a good book!
Cherries are from a group genus ‘prunus’ which also includes other fruits which has a central stone – plums, peaches and apricots and others that don’t – nectarines and almonds.
Cherries can be divided into two species – sweet cherries and sour cherries, although there are many varieties. Sour cherries are usually reserved for cooking. Cherries are found in most parts of Europe, Western Asia and some parts of Northern Africa and have been consumed since prehistoric times.
A cherry tree, once planted, takes 3 to 4 years to produce fruit and up to 7 years to fully mature. Cherries are typically in season here in the UK around June to July and they are a very healthy fruit to eat – containing vitamin A, minerals and antioxidants. They are also a good source of fibre.
Antioxidants are good for our bodies as they protect our cells from what is known as oxidants or free radicals. Antioxidants can be useful in inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and may help in lowering blood pressure. Cherry juice contains melatonin which is said to help with insomnia. A tea infused with cherry – either the fruit or the flowers is beneficial to good health and longevity.
Cherries have some interesting magical properties and uses too – The first one that comes to mind is that it a fruit very much connected to love. It is red, or course, and does resemble a heart shape. It is also associated with Venus and draws on love energy. While red cherries are connected to love and sweetness, there is the black cherry which has magical properties related to psychic powers, divination and intuition.
I cant write a blog on cherries without mentioning the wonderful tree from which they grow. The trees themselves have their own magical properties too – In the spring is when the cherry tree blossoms. Its beautiful fragrant pink and white flowers are a sign that at long last, the cold weather is coming to an end, bring with it renewal and inspiration.
The flowers don’t stay on the trees for very long, so if you can find some, pick them up, dry them and they can be used in incense blends or spell work for new beginnings, love and goal setting.
The wood from the tree make wonderful wands which are very centred and have a grounded energy. The wood can also be used in incense blends to promote focus to set and stabilise any goals or projects that you may have. If possible, please pick up any wood that has fallen from the tree naturally, rather than taking from the branches.
There are some interesting stories about the cherry tree – • If a single lady counts the cherrystones on her plate after eating, she should recite – “this year, next year, sometime, never” The last stone foretells when she will marry. • Cherry trees will bear more fruit if the first cherry is eaten by a new mother. • Cherry trees planted in the middle of a vineyard will ensure a good wine production.
Cherry blossom is also something that holds a special place in the hearts of the people of Japan. This tree is a particular special type of cherry called Prunus Serrulata – also known as Japanese Cherry or Sakura. Many of the varieties that are produced are for ornamental purposes only and the fruit produced is usually small and inedible.
The trees are planted in their hundreds and when in bloom, it is a rather splendid sight! This time of year when the trees are in full bloom is honoured and celebrated. This tradition is called Hunami and friends, family and co-workers come together to admire the blossom and enjoy picnics beneath the branches. Depending on which part of Japan you are visiting, the blooms come out between February and May.
The sight of these beautiful pink flowers must be something to behold and people travel from near and far to see them. These flowers are not just there to be admired, however, it also holds great significance to the people of Japan. The blossom season is very short lived and this is tied to the Buddhist themes of mortality, mindfulness and living in the now. Like the blossoms, our lives too are short and we are reminded to live with earnest and to our fullest each and every day – to appreciate even the smallest things, to look around us and to pay attention.
The Sakura tree were believed to represent the mountain deities where they stood, that transformed into the Gods of Rice paddies and the flowers signified a good harvest for the year ahead for the rice growers. The Sakura trees on the mountains were worshipped by the travelling Japanese before they transplanted them to inhabited areas in order to begin their work once again.
Sakura is a symbol of rebirth and new beginnings. A time of hope, optimism and new dreams, goals and plans. Now that is something definitely worth celebrating!