University of Saskatchewan Sour Cherries


The University of Saskatchewan (U of S) has the only funded fruit program in North America for our harsh climatic zones. The U of S fruit program has been breeding winter-hardy, drought tolerant cherries that grow on dwarf bushes. 

As the plants were only released recently their disease and pest resistance capabilities in warmer climates are not yet known. Learning is ongoing as members test these cherries in different environments. As the observations and assessments of growers are shared with CCPI we will learn how well these plants grow in a variety of conditions. Currently there are growers from most provinces and some US states.

These cherries are crosses of Prunus fruticosa (Mongolian cherry) and Prunus cerasus (Sour cherry). The hybrids have the fruit size of sour cherries and the hardiness and dwarfing qualities of Mongolian cherry. They are hardy and can grow in the extreme prairie climate, a climate that discourages pests and disease. Most growers use few or no chemicals.


Eating1The U of S cherries have sweetness (BRIX) levels of 20 or over that rival those of sweet cherries. They exceed traditional sour cherries grown elsewhere that usually range from 11 to 16. As a result, when cooked they require less added sugar than traditional sour cherries.

The dark/burgundy colouring throughout the cherry eliminates the need for added food dye required by traditional varieties that have yellow flesh. Health research has linked the dark red colour to high antioxidant levels.

Sour cherries are used primarily for processing, cooking, and baking. While sweet cherries, eaten fresh in season, lose much of their flavour when heated, sour cherries retain their colour, sweetness, and flavour through the cooking process.

"Intense" best describes the flavour, colour and sweetness. These cherries must be savored in your mouth where the flavour explodes on your taste buds.

Hill harvest1


Cherries ripen between the end of July (Carmine Jewel) and end of August (Cupid, the biggest cherry). Most can be harvested over a 2 to 3 week period. The longer the cherries are allowed to remain on the bush, the deeper the colour and the sweeter the taste. Fruit size ranges from 2 to 4 cm with colour varying from bright red to black.

Cherries should be picked early in the morning when it is cool and kept out of direct sunlight. Refrigerate as quickly as possible. Cherries can be stored unwashed, loosely covered for 2 to 4 days. The softer the cherry, the shorter the storing period.


Uses in addition to their health benefits, are unlimited including dried for snacks, baking and salads; pie and tart filling; juice; jams and spreads, sauces for meats and pancakes; ice cream; nutritional sausage filler, wine, and natural food colouring and flavouring.

Plant Sources:

The University of Saskatchewan licenses propagation. Each plant is "cloned" and is identical to the original plant allowing all plants to grow and ripen in the same period.

harvestEvery year more nurseries and garden centres are stocking University of Saskatchewan cherry bushes. Check with your local retailers for availability. If you cannot find any local retailers check out online or seed catalogues for sources.

For a complete list of commercial companies that sell plants:


1. Carmine Jewel was released in 1999.

⁻ Black/purple skin with dark purple flesh, 3.5 gm berry;
⁻ Brix 17, small pits, concentrated flavour, great for juice products
⁻ Harvest in late July/early August

ROMANCE SERIES - named and released in 2007:

Valentine2. Valentine - Image Left
- Red skin, light red flesh and juice; 4.5 gm berry;
- Brix 15; great for pies;
- Harvest in early to mid August.


 3. Juliet
- Dark red skin, red flesh and juice; 5 gm berry;
- Brix 20; excellent fresh eating and processing;
- Harvest in early to mid August

4. Crimson Passion
- Dark red skin, red flesh, bright red juice; 6 gm berry;
- Brix 22; excellent fresh eating and processing; large pit;
- Low vigour, smaller yields;
- Harvest in early to mid August

5. Romeo
- Dark red/black skin, red flesh and juice; 4 gm berry;
- Brix 22; excellent fresh eating and processing;
- Harvest in late August to early September


6. Cupid - Image Left
- Black/dark red skin, red flesh and juice; 6.5 gm berry;
- Brix 19; Very flavourful, good for fresh eating and processing;
- Harvest in late August to early September