The wild Cherry (Cerasus), which occurs of two distinct kinds,
has by budding and grafting begotten most of our finest garden
fruits of its genus. The name Cerasus was derived from
Kerasous, a city of Cappadocia, where the fruit was plentiful.
According to Pliny, Cherries were first brought to Rome by
Lucullus after his great victory over Mithridates, 89 B.C. The
cultivated Cherry disappeared in this country during the
period, and was not re-introduced until the reign of Henry VIII.
The Cerasus sylvestris is a wild Cherry tree rising to the height
of thirty or forty feet, and producing innumerable small globose
fruits; whilst the Cerasus vulgaris, another wild Cherry, is a
mere shrub, called Cerevisier in France, of which the fruit is
sour and bitter. Cherry stones have been found in the primitive
lake dwellings of Western Switzerland. There is a tradition that
Christ gave a Cherry to St. Peter, admonishing him not to despise
little things. In the time of Charles the First, Herrick, the
clergyman poet, wrote a simple song, to which our well-known
pretty Cherry Ripe has been adapted:--
Cherry ripe! ripe! I cry,
Full and fair ones I come, and buy!
If so be you ask me where
They do grow: I answer there
Where my Julia's lips do smile,
There's the land: a cherry isle.
Cherries on the ryse (or, on twigs) was well known as a London
street cry in the fifteenth century; but these were probably the
fruit of the wild Cherry, or Gean tree. In France soup made from
Cherries, and taken with bread, is the common sustenance of the
wood cutters and charcoal burners of the forest during the 
winter. The French distil from Cherries a liqueur named Eau de
Cerises, or, in German, Kirschwasser; whilst the Italians
prepare from a Cherry called Marusca the liqueur noted as
Marasquin. Cherries termed as Mazzards are grown in Devon
and Cornwall, A gum exudes from the bark of the Cherry tree
which is equal in value to gum arabic. A caravan going from
Ethiopia to Egypt, says Husselquist, and a garrison of more than
two hundred men during a siege which lasted two months, were
kept alive with no other food than this gum, which they sucked
often and slowly. It is known chemically as cerasin, and differs
from gum acacia in being less soluble.
The leaves of the tree and the kernels of the fruit contain a basis
of prussic acid.
The American wild Cherry (Prunus virginiana) yields from its
bark a larger quantity of the prussic acid principle, which is
sedative to the nervous centres, and also some considerable tannin.
As an infusion, or syrup, or vegetable extract, it will allay nervous
palpitation of the heart, and will quiet the irritative hectic cough of
consumption, whilst tending to ameliorate the impaired digestion.
Its preparations can be readily had from our leading druggists, and
are found to be highly useful. A teaspoonful of the syrup, with one
or two tablespoonfuls of cold water, is a dose for an adult every
three or four hours. The oozing of the gum-tears from the trunk
and boughs is due to the operation of a minute parasitic fungus.
Helena, in the Midsummer Night's Dream, paints a charming
picture of the close affection between Hermia and herself--
So we grew together
Like to a double Cherry-seeming parted,
But yet a union in partition:
Two lovely berries moulded on one stem.