The poor man's mahogany Although today we think of black cherry as one of the classic furniture woods, it wasn't always that way. Settlers in the Appalachian Mountains, for example, valued the tree's fruit more than its wood. They dubbed the tree "rum cherry" because from its dark purple cherries they brewed a potent liquor. Also, black cherry's inner bark contributed to tonics and cough medicines. Elsewhere, though, the wood was more appreciated. Early New England furniture-makers often found the price of fashionable Honduras mahogany beyond reach and turned instead to native black cherry. Because black cherry wood eventually darkens to a deep reddish brown, these frugal craftsmen mixed what they called "New England mahogany" in with the real thing. Today, cherry still appears in classic reproductions of colonial style furniture. It has also climbed in popularity as a new look in kitchen cabinets.
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