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The Maraschino Cherry

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The maraschino cherry of today has a history dating back a few hundred years ago in Dalmatia coast (present day Croatia). It was there that the marasca cherry grew wild (a sour, black cherry) and people would preserve them by soaking them a liqueur called maraschino, made from the cherry’s juice, pits and leaves. The maraschino cherry was a delicacy for many well to do Europeans and this is where traveling Americans got their first taste of the treat and started importing them to the United States in the late 1800s. Featured in Manhattan cocktails and baked confections and delicacies, the popularity of the maraschino cherry grew. In the 1920s-1930s a horticulturalist at Oregon State University – then called Oregon State Agricultural College – named Dr. Ernest Wiegand developed a less expensive non-alcoholic process to brine the cherries using calcium salts to preserve the firmness that was missing in previous attempts using American cherry varieties. The maraschino cherry of today is made from sweet cherries (Queen Anne or Royal Ann variety). The American version of the maraschino cherry became so popular that the imports were no longer needed. Today, one of the largest producers of maraschino cherries is our CLFP member Diana Fruit Company, which has been supplying the demand for this treat since 1921.


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