Chokecherry, scientifically known as Prunus virginiana, is a species of wild cherry native to North America. It is a deciduous shrub or small tree that typically grows in open woodlands, meadows, and along streams and roadsides. Chokecherry is found throughout Canada, the United States, and into northern Mexico.
Chokecherry trees can reach heights of up to 30 feet (9 meters) and have a rounded crown. They have dark gray to black bark and simple, alternate leaves that are ovate or elliptical in shape with finely toothed margins. The leaves turn yellow to red in the fall before dropping.
One of the most notable features of the chokecherry is its fruit. The fruit is a small, round drupe that is initially green and turns dark red to purple-black when ripe. The cherries are about 1/4 to 1/2 inch (0.6 to 1.3 cm) in diameter and have a tart, astringent flavor.
The name “chokecherry” comes from the bitter and astringent taste of the fruit, which can be somewhat unpleasant if eaten raw. However, the cherries can be used in various culinary preparations such as jams, jellies, pies, syrups, and beverages, where the tartness can be balanced with sugar or other sweeteners.
While chokecherries are not commonly cultivated as a commercial crop, they are often used for making preserves and other products on a small scale. They are also valued for their wildlife benefits, as the fruit is a food source for birds and mammals. Additionally, chokecherry wood is sometimes used for making furniture, tool handles, and other small wooden items.
It’s important to note that while chokecherries are generally safe to consume, the seeds, leaves, and twigs of the plant contain cyanogenic glycosides, which can release cyanide when ingested in large quantities. Therefore, it’s recommended to consume chokecherries in moderation and to properly process them before consumption to reduce any potential risks.