Monday, July 13, 2009

The Battle of Queen Anne and Rainier

These are Queene Anne Cherries and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

When I was growing up....

Queen Anne cherries were the premier cherries for anybody who knew their cherries. Queen Anne cherries have a lighter bodied flavor (to use terms from fine wine descriptions, as it should be). They are gourmet cherries, yet can be enjoyed fully by anyone that cares to indulge in a fine cherry. I know all these fine and wonderful things because we had a Queen Anne cherry tree in our backyard. Not just any old Bing cherry or other sweet cherry, no we had gourmet cherries in our backyard.

One summer day in my early teenage years my mother sent me climbing the cherry tree, yes the Queen Anne cherry tree, to pick some fruit. She gave me a big plastic bowl. Up I went. I think I may have been up there half the morning. There were a lot of cherries. When she called me back down out of the tree I only had maybe half to two-thirds of the bowl full of cherries. Mom asked me, "I thought there were more cherries?" I suppose said something like, "Uh, nope. That's all I got." I remember Mom being a little miffed. The next day I came down with hives. Hives all over. Of course, Mom tagged it right away when she saw all the welts on my legs and arms. "How many cherries did you eat yesterday?" I'm sure I answered again with extreme non-commitment, "I dunno, not that many." No fooling my mom. The treeful of cherries I'd eaten had given me hives. I was unable to eat cherries for over ten years after that. And I get nervous even now.

Back to the Battle of Queen Anne and Rainier...

Wasn't it "Queen" Anne and "King" Rainier? I thought Grace Kelly was involved here somewhere? I get so confused. I think the story goes that if Queen Anne looked back as she was leaving the land of Rainier she would be turned into a Marashino or something? Or was King Rainier stranded on a volcano as Queen Anne stole his boat in some distant land and the volcanoe spewed and in the tefra (my new word for the week) spewed seeds and cherries all to pieces over the northwest. Yeah, that's it. Big battle and Annie stole the king's boat, so he cursed her to be a candy and she had him blown to smithereens. Here's the toned down version:

'Queen Anne' is often used to make marachino cherries because they bleach easily. There is a widespread belief that as fresh cherries, 'Rainier' outranks 'Queen Anne,' though I can go from one tree to the other sampling the fruit, & not confirm which is the 'Rainier' on any basis of one being better than the other. Indeed, distributors of grocery produce commonly place Queen Anne cherries in the grocery stores as Rainiers because the latter are more famous, & no one seems to notice the difference.

There was a time when 'Bing' & 'Rainier' did not yet exist, & it was the Queen Anne cherry that ruled. It is by far the older variety & was earlier known as 'Napoleon,' or 'Napoleon Bigarreau.'

It had its name changed to 'Royal Anne,' eventually ammended to 'Queen Anne,' by nurseryman Henderson Lewelling when he established his pioneering orchard in Salem, Oregon, in 1847. It is from Lewelling's renamed 'Royal Anne' that even the Bing & Lambert are derived, & scores of other varieties.
(see for more info, or to put this all back in context)

By the way "all cherries contain Cyanogenic glycoside, a very toxic chemical found in the leaves, limbs, roots, & cherry pits, but the ripened fruit as we all know is completely nontoxic."

Unless you eat a tree-load of them.


  1. You may have been subjected to some Grace Kelly variety, or you chewed some seeds.
    I now know more about cherries than ever before. My ignorance, it seems was vast.
    I finally found it--tephra, with a ph.
    Always some sort of conflict; boy meets girl, girl cause boy to explode or disintegrate, girl goes on to great accomplishment and notoriety. The age old story.

  2. Wow, tephra - thank you. Can you tell I only heard the word for volcanic spew?

  3. Probably at a scientific seminar. You must hang in cerebral crowds. It sounds borderline racy. Glad I found the meaning.

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