This topic has interested me for some time, as I bought the three Hungarian cherries in 2004. I misplaced an early iteration of my orchard map, and haven’t been certain which tree is which for years now…until yesterday, when I found that map and now know which two of those three trees still survive.
Before I launch into my results section, I’ll provide some background, because it has certainly affected the performance of these trees and should be considered against the experiences of others. Also, I am constitutionally predisposed to provide the absolute maximum context for anything I post. Sue me for being a dull pedant (repetitive, I know, but likely accurate).
I’ll start with my personal caveat—if you’ve read and remember too many of my infrequent posts, this will look familiar—that early on in my home orcharding “career” I abused pretty much all of my trees through poor management. Deer showed up in 2010 and systematically chewed up, limbed up or broke off a number of my trees. Cherries in particular were favorite targets, so these three trees never really had a chance to shine until the last three or four years.
All of these trees grew slowly, which is characteristic for almost all of the trees in my lean soil. Balaton was the best grower and producer early on, though that production was never more than a couple of handfuls. This tree succumbed in 2012 to the accumulated stresses of poor early management that couldn’t respond to the massive damage of the deer. I don’t actually recall how they tasted other than pretty good.
Jubileum was less damaged by deer than the other two trees and has produced off and on for 7-8 years, though only a couple of years had enough cherries to make jam. It’s 9’ tall, the absolute allowable limit for trees in my pedestrian orchard. It has a complex flavor profile and makes excellent tasting jam, but is not as easy to eat out of hand as Danube. The birds also love Jubileum, working harder to get at this cherry through the netting I throw over it than any other fruit on my property. Notably, I made (shame on me!) a tree for my sister, who at that time lived a couple miles down the hill from me near the local river, where soils are much deeper and more fertile. She also watered more. Her tree produced large crops almost annually after three or four years and grew to 20’ before she moved three years ago.
Danube was also heavily and repeatedly damaged, to the point that it was 2’ tall gnarled nub for a couple of years before pushing out a new shoot around 2014. This shoot is now a 7’x7’ tree that has been difficult to manage. It’s ugly, but pushes 3’ of willowy new growth per year that I’m hoping to eventually sculpt into a 9ish foot tall x 6’ wide tree. (This will probably never happen.) Anyway, it has produced cherries for the past four or five years, slowly increasing its crop load each year. This year I harvested ~20 lbs. It’s the sweetest tasting of the two remaining trees, though Brix was 22-23 for each variety. It’s got nice acidity, but much less than Jubileum, and is less complexly flavored. My wife made jam from each of these last year, and Jubileum was far superior, though the Danube jam was still quite nice.
At this point Danube appears like it will be the better producer of the two and is enjoyable eating out of hand, but Jubileum makes better pies and jam.
Though I now know which of the three trees is missing from my Hungarian collection, I won’t replace my Balaton tree. I’ve got at least two, likely three (another example of poor note keeping *sigh) of the Romance Series cherries. Carmine Jewel delivered its first usable crop this year (year 4).