A morello cherry is a sour cherry cultivar. Morellos are distinguished by their very dark skin, flesh, and juice. They are extremely popular for things like cherry pie, cherry jam, and cherry preserves, and they are also used in an assortment of other desserts. The rich, complex flavor of the morello cherry complements an assortment of ingredients, especially chocolate. You may be able to find morello cherries at a market in season, and they are often available frozen; you can also try growing them, if you live in USDA zones four through eight.
Sour cherries are more formally known as Prunus cerasus, and at one point there were a number of sour cherry cultivars. Unfortunately, the advent of industrial agriculture led to a decline in overall crop diversity, including diversity among the sour cherries, and the morello was one of the few cultivars left behind. Agriculturally, the morello cherry is preferred because it flowers later than other cherries, reducing the risk of damage as a result of frost or severe storms.
One interesting trait of sour cherries is their resistance to pests and diseases, which is one reason why this cultivar has become so popular. The morello cherry is also self fertile, making it popular with gardeners who have limited space to dedicate to cherry cultivation, as a tree for the purpose of cross fertilization is not required. Cherry trees are relatively easy to cultivate, as long as they are planted in well drained soil and fertilized on a regular basis.
Alone, the morello cherry can be a bit too bitter to be pleasant. However, the bitter flavor is much more complex than that of sweet cherries, making morello cherries more suitable for desserts. They can also be used in savory dishes, as is common in the Middle East. People who like lightly sweetened desserts like to use sour cherries because the level of sweetener can be more easily controlled, ensuring that the dessert is not too intensely sweet. The dark color of the morello cherry is also desirable for many cooks, as it is quite striking.
When selecting morello cherries from your market, look for firm specimens without signs of mold, discoloration, or sliminess. Store the cherries for up to four days under refrigeration before use, and remember to wash them before you utilize them. If you're going to be working with a lot of morello cherries, you may want to consider acquiring a cherry pitter, which will make processing the cherries much easier. If you want to freeze the cherries for later use, spare yourself some heartache and pit them before freezing.