This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Notwithstanding the frosts of June, which materially injured some varieties, the cherry crop, in this vicinity, so far as I have observed, has been a fair one. I have had an opportunity of examining nearly fifty varieties, (a larger number than I ever before tested in one season,) some thirty-five of which I fruited at home. A few of these were quite new to me, but the greater part of them I have tested at least once before; and as the cherry department of your journal has of late been rather slighted in the pressure of the various pear and grape controversies, I will give you my opinions of some of my favorite sorts for what they are worth.
Without intending to join in the cry against the introduction of new varieties, which is becoming the fashion with many people, on the ground that "there are already too many," and that "there are only a dozen sorts worth cultivating," it is my impression that many of the cherries (not to mention other fruits,) now extensively grown, might better be discarded in favor of superior sorts, of which we have now such an abundance.
The chief difficulty in the way of such a movement is the wonderful diversity of taste which exists both among cultivators and consumers. I do not believe that twenty people could be found in this county who would unanimously agree upon the merits of as many varieties of cherries, pears or apples. Scarcely a fruit can be named, however worthless, that has not at least one friend who considers it too good to be rejected; still I am in favor of dispensing with all fruits which are not at least as high as "good" in the pomological scale, and coincide entirely with the ideas expressed in your editorial on the subject of fruits "for market purposes," in the last volume. I am aware that I differ on this point from some of my fruit-growing friends, who contend, that if a pear or a cherry "will sell," it is not to be cast out, either from the orchard or the nursery, no matter how unsatisfactory it may prove to the occasional purchaser who has a perception of what constitutes a good fruit, although he may not know, at sight, the good from the worthless, and is naturally attracted by a showy exterior.
I have been sometimes accused of placing my standard of excellence too high, but am not yet convinced that it is not best to aim at perfection, and attain it as nearly as possible.
The varieties which I class as "best" are Belle de Choisy, not very fruitful; Black Eagle, in my estimation the very best cherry within my knowledge, and not open to the objection frequently urged against it, of being a poor bearer; Coe's Transparent, very delicate; Downton, the best light colored variety that I know, and only second to Black Eagle.
I consider "very good," American Amber, rather small; Bigarreau, or Graffion, very fine, but rather firm for my taste; Bigarreau de Lyon (?), which improves with the age of the trees, and was this season magnificent, fully equal in size and flavor to Black Tartarian, and ripe about the 20th of June; Black Tartarian, not considered by me, as by many, the very best; Burr's Seedling; Downer's Late, capital when perfectly ripe, but unlike some others, quite uneatable until it is so; Elton, very fine, but, to my taste, a little deficient in flavor; Florence, a very close imitation of the Bigarreau. Its ripening a week later, does' not, according to my experience, prove constant; Knight's Early Black, one of my favorites, but, I think, rather a moderate bearer, at least on young trees, and not so early as B. de Lyon (?); Late Mayduke (perhaps a local name), later and more heart-shaped than the Mayduke, and somewhat firmer, but quite distinct from the genuine Late Duke; Mayduke, the best of the acid cherries that I have yet seen, and the most useful of all, capital alike for eating and cooking.
If restricted to one tree, which I hope never to be, I should be tempted to choose this variety; Ohio Beauty; Heine Hortense, very large, beautiful in color, and appears to be extremely fruitful upon young trees; White Bigarreau, a very old, but not-to-be-despised variety. Upon young trees, I find it very fine, and of good size.
Of the many sorts which are no more than "good," I will enumerate but a few. Archduke, the poorest bearer that I know, this season did better than usual; Belle Magnifique, too acid to be eaten in a raw state; although very late and handsome, I find it so badly punctured by the curculio that few specimens escape; Bigarreau Gros Coauret is apparently much like Elton; Early Purple Guigne never ripens, the birds taking every fruit as soon as colored; Monstreuse de Mezel, large and handsome, but rather coarse. I have an unnamed sort, strongly resembling it, but, I think, distinct; Napoleon Bigarreau, too firm for me, and deficient in flavor (Bigarreau d'Esperen is doubtless identical); Royal Duke promises well, judging from a few specimens; Waterloo I doubt being genuine. If it is I do not admire it, as it has a strong resemblance to the old Black Heart.
I have been egregiously humbugged, like some others, with several varieties which are not yet in the rejected list. Buttner's Yellow (which I believe is, however, rejected under another name) is one. After waiting some years for fruit of a very fine late cherry, I found it small, dry, tough and flavorless. Sparhawk's Honey is at best indifferent. Sweet Montmorency, brought out with such a flourish of trumpets a few years since, is quite small, and of very little, if any, value. Tradescant's Black Heart, or Elk-horn, as it is generally called hereabouts, where it is much esteemed by some persons, has nothing to recommend it but the tremendous size to which it can be grown. It is coarse, dry, flavorless, tough, and in my opinion quite unfit for food under any ordinary circumstances. In case of a failure of all other varieties, I might be persuaded to indulge sparingly in it. I do detest these great, coarse fruits; but when I ask people why they cultivate them, they answer, "they will sell".
I this season fruited, for the first time, several seedlings from the Bigar-reau, planted in 1853. One or two were very late, but too small to be of any value. One bears a strong resemblance to the Black Eagle, in size, color and form, except in being perhaps a little more pointed. The few specimens produced were of fine quality, but unfortunately ripen during the height of the cherry season, when only something very remarkable is now of much account. If it improves, as seedlings so frequently do, it may be worth propagating. Prof. Kirtland has, however, such a very extensive and successful "manufactory" of new varieties, that it seems rather unnecessary for any one else to engage in the pursuit.