Common names: Cornelian cherry, Cornelian cherry dogwood
The European cornel (Cornus mas) is part of the dogwood (Cornaceae) family. Most dogwood species are native to the northern hemisphere. It is a shrub which prefers light and is resistant to drought, reaching a height up to 2.5 – 4 m. The leaves are 4-8 cm long, they have a glossy green colour and ovate shape. The small, yellow flowers form groups of 10 to 25, blooming in early spring, before the leaves appear.
The flowers contain large quantities of nectar and pollen, the plant being one of the first honey-bearing plants of the year.
Cornel fruits ripen in August-September, they are 2-cm-long oval drupes having a bright red colour when ripen. The plant grows in rare shrubbery areas, rare woods, on hill and mountain sides, especially in soft soils. It grows slowly but in good conditions it will have a very long life. High-quality tool handles can be made from cornel wood.
European cornel spreads from Central Europe to the Black Sea. The plant is cultivated in many countries, especially in parks, as the early flowers are very beautiful and the plant tolerates well the urban environment.
Cornel fruits are consumed since the ancient times. They are collected in August and September.
Fruits contain a large amount of vitamin C, sugars, malic acid, pectin and colouring agents.
The sour cornel berries were already consumed by our ancestors. Raw fruits are tastier if they are overripe. They have antioxidant properties and a high vitamin C content, therefore they improve our body’s resistance. The fruits can be preserved by drying, being a substantial source of vitamin C during the winter days. Berries can be turned into jam, syrup, canned fruit or even wine or brandy. As olives, unripe fruits are preserved in brine or vinegar. In folk medicine, cornel berries or cornel jam are used mainly to treat diarrhoea.