Cherries have been grown across the British isles for more than 2,000 years and the summer months produce cherries that are rich, ripe and juicy.
British cherries come in a number of varieties: there are many subtle differences in colour, size, sweetness and texture and regional variations are often local-heritage cherries.
But they’re not just great for summer foods: cherries hold an abundance of health benefits too. A quarter of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C, essential for skin, bones and blood vessels, is held in just 10 cherries. They’re also high in melatonin which promotes health sleep, and contain powerful antioxidants anthocyanins 1 and 2, which give the fruit its distinctive ruby red colour. They’re anti-inflammatory too, so good for arthritis.
Cherries aren’t just for sweet dishes – they’re surprisingly versatile and can be used in savoury food too, as well as providing a delightful snack.
The consortium British Cherry Growers, comprising some of the largest cherry growers in the UK, has an ambition to export 300 tonnes of cherries from the UK this year, and has already secured retail programmes in South Africa and the Middle East. Its sights are now firmly set on Europe, specifically Italy, France and Spain.
For a versatile cherry sauce you can use with just about anything (and we mean anything),
- Slice the top and bottom off 1/2lb cherries and reserve. De-pit the cherries and blend the flesh until it forms a paste.
- Place a cup each of water and sugar in a pan and bring to a boil
- Add the blended cherries and the juice of two lemons and stir.
- Add 4 tbsp flour and mix thoroughly, then stir until thickened.
- Remove the sauce from the heat and allow to cool.
- In a few minutes the mix should start to get thick and pretty smooth
- If it doesn’t get thicker add more flour little by little
- Add the reserved cherry slices to the mix and stir.
Great with: Greek yogurt; fruit; porridge; cake; cheese, pork dishes, filling for pastries
The British crop is in season for six to seven weeks, and the UK consumption is around 1,000 tonnes each week.
- Sweetheart: Sweet but not sugary. Ripens end of season
- Skeena: Large fruit with good flavour
- Kordia: Medium-sized, mid-season, firm flesh
- Merchant: One of the earliest to ripen. Large, sweet, and dark-red
- Stella: Medium. dark-red, very sweet and juicy
- Regina: Large dark fruit, firm texture
- Sunburst: Large dark fruit, rich flavour
- Lapins: Second half of season, large dark-red/black with dark flesh
- Penny: Outstanding quality, latest to ripen. Black, large, firm, sweet
- Colney: Late season. large, dark black fruit, superb quality, sweet
With one of the largest cherry crops for years anticipated, it could be that 2018 heralds the way for the UK to export one of its favourite summer fruits for years to come.