Carmine Jewel tart-cherry -- first harvest!
These cherry bushes were released from the University of Saskatchewan cherry breeding program in I think 1999, but weren't widely available even here in Canada until 2003. I bought mine as a potted plant in 2011. It has flowered every year but this is the first year I've got a crop. Last year it had about 4 cherries but something got them before I did. This year it produced around 3 pounds. My understanding is that next year and in future years it could produce 20-30 lbs. Guess we'll see.
Anyway, below is a photo of the bush before picking today. Kind of nice that the cherries are hidden on the inside of the bush, making it less likely that birds will see them.
Push back the branches with your arm and here's what it looks like inside:
In reality the cherries are a bit darker than they appear in this photo below, but I include this to give some scale. The Canadian quarter in this pic is identical in size to a U.S. quarter. They are smallish cherries, and the pits are really small, maybe twice the size of a pin cherry or chokecherry pit.
Here's my set-up for pitting these cherries, it makes very quick work of them. The fresh cherries are in the bowl on the left, you place them on the angled metal plate and they roll down to the pitter, then you whack the plunger to remove the pit and send the pits into the small plastic container below the plunger, while the pitted cherries drop into the yellow pyrex bowl on the right side. Very cool. This vintage pitter was originally my wife's grandmother's, she got it around 1925.
First batch pitted and ready for freezing (I did a second batch later on). Not sure where these will end up... smoothies, pies, cherry juice, tarts....
As for the taste, I find them nice to eat fresh for the first five or ten, then the tartness becomes increasingly noticeable. Hey, they are called tart cherries for a reason!
These were picked fairly soon after turning purple, some people like to leave them on the bush longer to try to sweeten them further. But I tried that last year with the 4 cherries the bush produced in 2013, and something beat me to them and I never got to even try one. Plus I've read stories about people having problems with fruit-cracking for cherries left on the bush. That said, I did leave several dozen cherries on the bush so I can see for myself what happens to their sweetness etc. over the next month or so.
These were harvested August 2, which might seem late for many tart cherry growers, but I am in zone 3 so everything is slower here. I have 4 other varieties of tart cherries in my yard, in various color stages, but Carmine Jewel is the only variety I consider to have ripened so far.