Skip to main content

Is a cherry a berry?

Blog post   •   Feb 06, 2019 23:50 CET

Cherries mixed with strawberries: But is either one of them a berry? (Photo: Iwona Lach on Unsplash)

Isn’t a cherry a berry? It all depends who you ask. Panalpina put this question to visitors at Fruit Logistica in Berlin, the main event for the global perishables industry.

Cherries look like berries, right? They are round, soft, sweet and can be picked off and popped into your mouth. They are often in season round about the same time as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries.

Cherries are drupes

Ask a botanist and you’ll find that cherries are actually ‘drupes’. A drupe is a fruit that has one seed surrounded by an outer fleshy layer and thin skin. So cherries fit this description, as do peaches, nectarines and plums.

Strawberries are not berries

What then are berries? A berry is a fruit that has seeds on the inside surrounded by a fleshy pulp that is entirely edible. Cranberries and blueberries are berries, but so are grapes, kiwis, tomatoes, papayas, guavas, bananas and avocados, according to the botanist.

What’s more: Watermelons and cantaloupes are considered berries with a hard skin, called ‘pepos’. Strawberries, raspberries and blackberries aren’t berries at all, but are classified as ‘aggregate fruits’, made up of many tiny drupes, or in the case of strawberries, made of tiny nuts, clustered together.

Why is there such confusion over this fruit that almost everyone loves – sweet or sour, in wines, preserves, desserts, baked goods and health remedies? The simple reason is that the everyday culinary terms had already taken hold before scientists could properly define and classify what was what.

Cherries, Chile and China

Cherries have been cultivated for thousands of years and probably originated in the area around the Black Sea. Greeks and Romans used them extensively and they soon spread throughout Europe and China. Early colonists brought cherries to America in the 1600s. (Source: Gardening Channel)

The cherry season in South America typically is short, lasting roughly 45 days from November to the end of December. Chile is one of the biggest cherry producers in the world. Traditionally, the country exported all of its high-quality cherries to North America (60%) and Europe (40%). Nowadays, almost the entire production of premium cherries is going to China (close to 90%) and South Korea. This shift has led to a shortage of cherries during winter season in Europe and North America.

Only recently, China has also opened up its market to Argentinian cherries. While the cherry production in Argentina is much smaller than in Chile, the season lasts longer because the production areas reach further south.