A Montmorency cherry is a somewhat unusual sour cherry, in that it is a sour cherry with light-coloured flesh and an almost clear juice.
The tree can grow up to 9 metres (30 feet) tall when very old, though it averages 4 1/2 metres (15 feet) and can have a spread anywhere from 2 1/2 to 6 metres (8 to 20 feet.) Dwarf versions that grow only 2 1/2 metres (8 feet) are available.
It was once very popular in France, though other varieties have now overtaken it in popularity.
It remains the single most important sour cherry in North America.
Because the fruit is quite light in colour, commercial makers of cherry pie filling using Montmorency cherries will often use food colouring to get the pie filling the appealing deep red cherry colour that people expect.
Studies at various universities in the United States (2010) and at Northumbria University in England (2012) have found that sour cherries, specifically the Montmorency variety, contain an extremely significant quantity of melatonin, which can improve your ability to have a more restful sleep. In the 2012 study, a 30 ml (2 tablespoon) portion of the juice was able to increase the time actually asleep by 25 minutes.
Montmorency cherries originated in the Montmorency valley just north of Paris. They were introduced to America from France around 1760.
Howatson G, Bell PG, Tallent J, Middleton B, McHugh MP, Ellis J. School of Life Sciences, Northumbria University. Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. European Journal of Nutrition. 30 October 2011.
Pigeon WR, Carr M, Gorman C, Perlis ML. University of Pennsylvania, University of Rochester and VA Center of Canandaigua. Effects of tart cherry juice beverage on the sleep of older adults with insomnia: a pilot study. Journal of Medicinal Food. 2010;13:579-583.