(still small cherries on the tree)
It all starts out with cherry blossoms in spring. Cherry blossoms are distinguished by having a flock of blossoms, tightly packed together. Usually the flowers are immaculate white or seductive pink shaded. This year we were fortunate to catch the 52nd Sakura Matsuri Japanese cherry blossom show at the Botanic Gardens in Brooklyn. We went on a particularly beautiful sunny spring day matching the beauty of the cherry blossoms – a real treat.
In the states most of the cherries are grown in Washington and California. Michigan likes to consider itself “The Cherry Capitol of the World” and hosts a national cherry festival with some 150 events. Cherries have a short season only about four weeks. On the east coast they’re coming to the market as early as June. Cherries get picked directly from the tree or another technique is the shaking of the trees allowing only the ripe cherries to fall into nets laid out on the ground ensuring the delicate cherries won’t get bruised.
Sweet & Sour
The darker colored cherry varieties tend to be sweeter. Bing cherries have a dark almost purple color and are perfect to pop into your mouth for the instant pleasure. Some varieties never get sweet enough to be consumed raw then they’re called sour cherries. Morello is a popular sour cherry, which are cooked with the addition of a sweetener and are used for pies and jellies.
When buying cherries look for an unblemished outside skin. Cherries have a refrigerated shelf life of up to four days - best kept in a closed container such as a Tupperware. If you keep them around any longer the taste will wind drastically to blandness.
Cherries in the kitchen
It’s best to pit cherries before processing them in jellies, pies etc. The following recipe is fairly easy to make. The flavor of cherries is underlined by almond milk, which has a natural affinity with cherries. I’m intrigued by the following recipe which includes chia seeds it makes a custardy texture.
4 cups cherries
1 tablespoon maple syrup
½ cup vanilla flavored almond milk
2 tablespoons cacao powder – organic, pure preferably
4 tablespoons chia seeds
1. Rinse cherries with water and remove any stems. Pit cherries with a pitting tool or cut them in half and remove the seed.
2. In a pot (1-quart sized) combine maple syrup and the cherries. Cover the pot with a lid and simmer mixture on low heat setting for 15 minutes.
3. Strain liquid and reserve.
4. In a blender combine the cherry liquid, almond milk, cacao and chia seeds and process for 1 minute.
5. Combine mixture with the cooked cherries and spoon into four glasses or bowls.
Chef’s Note: It’s a good idea to wear dark clothes around cherries since the stain clothes and leave their unforgettable mark!
Cherry nutrients: Cherries are high in vitamin C. and the terrific antioxidant level must be highlighted in particular.