Featured Fruit — Nanking Cherry

Nanking Cherry


Exerpted from

“Plums on the Prairies”

by Rick Sawatzky



“Prunus tomentosa, Nanking cherry, is widely grown in the prairie provinces.  Nanking cherry as well as eastern and western sandcherries are listed with the plums because they are more closely related botanically to the plums than to true cherries.  Nanking cherry plants have serrated leaves which are more fuzzy than other species in this group and light pink flowers.  They have ornamental value when planted as specimens or when planted closely and trimmed to form a hedge.  The fruit is round, bright red, between 15 and 20 mm in diameter, low in acid, mild flavoured and good eaten fresh.  The fruit is held tightly on short stems and is hidden under leaves where there is a light to medium size crop. Since Prunus tomentosa is not self-fruitful, two or more genotypes are needed for cross-pollination and good fruit set.


Nanking cherries are propagated by seed. Since there were at least two collections made from their native range in China some Nanking cherry seedlings are much hardier than others.  Seedlings derived from those collected at the northern limit of the species (i.e. the Northern Limit strain) are the hardiest.”








Nanking Cherry Wine

3 lbs ripe Nanking cherries

1½ lbs granulated sugar

1 11-oz can Welch’s frozen grape (Concord) concentrate

6 pts water


1 crushed Campden tablet

1 tsp pectic enzyme

½ tsp acid blend

1 tsp yeast nutrient

Burgundy wine yeast


Bring water to boil and dissolve sugar in it, stirring until completely clear. Meanwhile, wash and de-stem the cherries and tie them into a nylon straining bag. With hands, crush the cherries in primary fermentation vessel. Add acid blend and yeast nutrient and pour boiling sugar-water over fruit. Stir briefly to aid in dissolving additives, cover primary, and allow to cool to 70-75 degrees F. Add crushed Campden tablet, stir, recover, and set aside 12 hours. Add thawed can of grape concentrate and pectic enzyme, stir well, recover and set aside additional 12 hours. Add yeast, recover and allow to ferment seven days, squeezing bag twice daily. Squeeze well to extract juice, discard pulp, and transfer to dark secondary fermentation vessel or clear one wrapped with brown paper. Top up if necessary and fit fermentation trap. Rack after 30 days, top up and refit airlock. Repeat after 30 additional days and again two months later. Stabilize, sweeten to taste (if desired) and set aside 2-3 weeks. Bottle, store in a dark place and taste after six months to a year. Improves with additional aging. [Author’s own recipe]

From Jack B. Keller, Jr.


Nanking Cherry Dessert Cake

2 cups pitted Nanking cherries
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cake mix (yellow or chocolate)

In medium sauce pan combine cherries and 3/4 cup water.  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer 2 minutes.  Add sugar, butter, lemon juice.  Mix cornstarch in 1/4 cup cold water and add slowly, stirring constantly until mix thickens.  Pour into a 9x9x2-inch baking dish.

Prepare cake mix as directed on package for high altitude.  Spoon over cherry mixture and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 40 minutes.  Serve warm with whipped cream.