The choke cherry, not to be confused with the chokeberry is also called the “Virginia bird cherry”. Choke cherries are one of the types of cherries native to North America and are found across most of the continent except for in more extreme climates (i.e. northernmost and southernmost areas of the continent). The most choke cherries have been found in the state of North Dakota, and the largest choke cherry tree in the state is about 41 feet tall! The choke cherry can range from black to red in color and are a bit astringent. Darker colored choke cherries are typically sweeter.
Choke cherries have been used throughout history for medicinal purposes. Native Americans used to take the bark from the chokecherry tree and turn it into a treatment for colds, stomach problems, and fever. Like both chokeberry and other types of cherries, the choke cherry has antioxidant properties due to its high anthocyanin content. This means that consuming the cherry regularly can reduce your risk of different varieties of cancer as well as outbreaks of arthritis and/or gout. While the choke cherry is very good for humans, it is highly toxic to quite a few different animals like horses, cattle, and deer so don’t set your mind to growing a choke cherry tree on the farm!
Due to choke cherries’ astringency, they are not typically eaten raw. Many people prefer to turn them into a jam or syrup with the help of some organic sweetener. Some even like to make a choke cherry wine.