Evans Cherry

A cluster of Evans cherries, ready for the picking.I’ve known for years that Evans cherries thrive in Edmonton, but I only recently learned that they are actually “from” here.

In 1976 a cherry orchard near Fort Saskatchewan owned by one Mrs. Borward was about to be torn out to make room for a new federal penitentiary, the Edmonton Institution.  Borward invited local horticulturalist Ieuan Evans to take suckers from her plants.[1]

I haven’t been able to find any info on where exactly the Borward cherries came from, but they were a variety of the species Prunus cerasus, commonly known as sour cherry and native to areas around the Black and Caspian seas.  Morello is another example of a variety of that species.  The Borward trees were planted as early as 1923.

Evans found the Borward cherries to be hardy, prolific, and delicious, and started distributing cuttings to friends and colleagues.  Eventually commercial nurseries got on board and started propagating them in the thousands.

Gastronomical Properties of the Evans Cherry: Vibrant red pigments, moist flesh, high acidity, and remarkable aroma.  Several online sources describe the flesh of the Evans as yellow.  I have never found this to be the case: the Evans cherries we harvest are red throughout and make beautiful, crimson pies without the use of food-colouring.  The fruits have moist flesh, so they easily become juice or syrup.  Their high acidity packs a flavourful wallop in drinks and baked goods.  To me the higher aromas of the Evans cherry are what really set it apart from other cultivars.  When Evans cherries reach phenolic ripeness they have the very distinct scent of almond-extract.

The Best Ways to Process/Prepare/Preserve Evans Cherries

  • Pie and Pastry – Cooking with sugar intensifies the natural flavour of the cherry and balances the sharp acidity.  One of the supreme manifestations of the Evans cherry.
  • Rumpot – An important preparation for Evans cherries because it preserves the intense almond-extract aroma of the fruit.  I suspect some day the Evans cherry will make an exceptional spirit.  Of course, distilling at home is very illegal and craft distilleries have to jump through all sorts of hoops to survive in this province.  Even so, I imagine a day when somebody produces an Evans cherry liquor in the style of true Austrian schnapps or Alsatian eau-de-vie: clear, strong, and highly aromatic.
  • Syrups for drinks.
  • Various preparations with chocolate.  Evans cherries are not so different from the sour European varieties traditionally used in desserts like Black Forest cake.

A tub of Evans cherries from a tree in Spruce Grove, Alberta.

 

1. All this historical info is from this brief but informative article originally published by The Edmonton Journal in August of 2006.

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