Cornelian cherry
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Cornelian Cherry – The forgotten elixir of ancient forest

Cornelian cherry is almost a deity in Eastern European stories and myths. From the times when ancient people were discovering healing potentials of certain foods, this magical tree has been used from root to fruits. I don’t know why it got the suffix “cherry” in English, but I assure you, it’s not even a cousin of those typical cherries! However, It’s a plant that has so many benefits! It could be considered as another alien tree growing on Earth. 😉 The reason I am claiming this lays in the fact that Cornelian cherry can survive almost all conditions and give fruits for hundreds of years.

Cornelian cherry

Cornelian cherry myth – a symbol of healthy

The Latin name Cornus mas, or Greek Κρανιά tell us about the mystical background. This is one of the first woody plants to bring colour back to the landscape in spring.

Cornelian cherry was adored in ancient Greece and Rome. Both by people and medical practitioners, including Hippocrates himself. Speaking of the Golden Age in his book Metamorphoses, the Roman poet Ovid wrote:

And Earth, untroubled,
Unharmed by hoe or ploughshare, brought forth all
Those men had a need for, and those men were happy
Gathering berries from the mountainsides,
Cornel cherries, or blackcaps, and edible acorns.

Cornelian bloom

Bringing the ancient wisdom back

The consumption of Cornelian cheery is becoming popular again. Around the colourful globe, people are going back to it for its beneficial effects on health and high nutritional values. The berries contain a large number of antioxidants that protect our bodies against harmful free radicals. Also, they are associated with a lower mortality rate due to tumours and heart disease in regions where people consume them often. These berries contain anthocyanins which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Cornelian cherries also contain organic acids and pectins. They are a very rich source of Vitamin C, and depending on genotype or origin, can contain up to twice the amount of vitamin C in an orange.

But what about the sugar content in Cornelian cherry?

Cornelian cherry

Don’t let the modern cultivated varieties full you! The Cornelian cherry we talk about is the wild one! It is growing in the forest and it’s rarely ever available for nutrition facts online.

OK, it has a certain amount of natural sugar, but the fruit is so nutritious and flavour-dense, that you can’t overeat it!

Things are simple, their syrup is so intensive in colour and taste, even when no sweetener is added. They can bring flavour and nutrients to a higher level in dishes prepared with them! Maybe you will find that 100g of Cornelian cherries has 27g of sugar per 250g, but this is referring to the cultivated variety. Wild ones will rarely have that much!

Maybe you know it as Dogwood?

The name Cornus mas. (meaning muscular, manly, strong) is derived from the Latin word Cornu – horn. The wood is immensely strong and tough. It has been used for centuries to make robust objects. A well-known saying among people of Eastern Europe says that a person needs to be healthy as a Cornelian tree. The plant is extremely resistant and can live for over 200 years. It is also known as European Cornel or Dogwood!

Let’s overview the berries

These berries have been used for millennia due to their medicinal properties. They respond to the human body and provide it with the necessary vitamins, acids and everything else necessary to function normally and healthy. Due to the resilience of the wood itself, people used the bark, leaves, flowers and roots of this tree to prepare various remedies.

Healthy as Cornus Mas

Unripe berries, as well as ripe ones, are used in treating various intestinal problems such as diarrhoea or fever conditions caused by digestive problems. This scientific article covers all the functional properties of cornelian cherry. According to this scientific work, Cornus mas fruits and their extracts have meaningful antiatherogenic, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties. The beneficial effect of these berries components has been determined in numerous papers focused on functional food.

This historically important fruit has lost favour in the post-industrialised era because it’s not easy to have mass production. The fruit has a pit that is difficult to remove. Modern humans just don’t like that! But luckily, in distant parts and countries, this fruit still plays a major role in autumn when people go to the forest to collect the gems of nature.

12 interesting facts about Cornelian cherry

  1. Even though they are called cherries, they are in no way similar to standard cherries or sour cherries. They don’t even taste similar to them.
  2. Although the berries are unfamiliar to Americans, Cornus mas is quite generally raised in the USA as a small decorative tree.
  3. In Italy, they call them Corniolo and they pickle them in vinegar and salt, as the olives.
  4. In Russia, they are used for sour soup and meat sauces. They are especially good in a sauce similar to Bolognese.
  5. In France, they widely cultivate them to grow bigger and those contain much more sugar.
  6. In Balkan countries, you will find festivals, wine production, alcoholic beverages, jams, juices, syrups and tea made of this plant. Their seeds can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute.
  7. They have been used for over 7,000 years as a food and medicine in ancient Greece. The pits of cornelian cherries have been excavated from a neolithic site in northern Greece.
  8. Research has discovered that Cornus improves liver function by applying a potent hepatoprotective activity.
  9. The designation “cornelian” is chosen from the semiprecious gemstone, sometimes spelt carnelian, since it looks like that.
  10. Cornelian berries possess unique medicinal properties due to their high mineral content. They are rich in calcium, potassium, copper, iron, manganese, zinc and a good source of sodium
  11. The Greek name Κρανιά was a poetic synonym for “spear.” But don’t use the wood to make boats! Cornelian Cherry wood is so dense that it sinks in the water!
  12. The quickest way to harvest it is to spread a blanket under the tree, shake the tree so only the ripe fruits will fall.
Cornelian cherry sugar-free syrup

Cornelian cherry sugar-free syrup

Recipe by Roberta Kapsalis
5.0 from 1 vote
Course: CondimentCuisine: Keto EuropeanDifficulty: easy


Prep time


Cooking time






  • 2 kg (70,5 oz) wild Cornelian cherries

  • 2 litres (68 fl oz) filtered water


  • Wash and clean the fruits from any dirt.
  • Place them in a deep pot, preferably clay pot, but you can use enamel. It’s not quite good to use metallic pots. Add 2 litres of water.
  • Turn on the stove on a very low temperature and slowly start heating until it simmers. Stir with a wooden spoon.
  • After 40 minutes, remove from heat and let it cool down a bit.
  • Place the fruits in a strainer and press them with a wooden spoon. This requires patience. After you finished add the rest of the liquid that they have been cooked in.
  • Rewturn this mixture on the stove on low heat. Keep stirring with a wooden spoon. As the liquid evaporates, you will get the syrup.
  • Place the syrup in washed glass bottles and keep them in the refrigerator.
  • Use 2 tablespoons for juice, or use it in savoury meals as you would use tomato juice.


  • You will get approximately 1.5 litres of the Cornelian cherry syrup. This will contain 162g of naturally occurring sugar. One tablespoon of this syrup will contain 1.5g of net sugar. You are safe with 2-3 tablespoons to make a glass of juice by addign water.

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  1. My gawd! Those damn things ain’t sweet at all! Never knew “sour” had a varying degree. Glad that tree has a purpose! Whew! Takes a bit to come back from and surprised it’s that good for you after a pucker like that!
    Don’t know how folks eat them fresh and not bat a wink.

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