Food & Wine

food basket. TEXT. CUINA magazine. PHOTO

The versatile cherry

The appearance of cherries is a sign of spring

The appearance of cherries on market stalls is a sure sign spring has arrived. Before the 19th century, cherry trees were few and far between in Catalonia, and only found in private gardens. Yet, after the phylloxera bug blighted the country's vineyards, many smallholders substituted vines with cherry trees.

In a century, the cherry has become an established product, particularly in Baix Llobregat, which is responsible for half of the country's total cherry production. Nevertheless, cherries are also grown in other key areas, including Ribera d'Ebre, Segrià, Terra Alta, Alt Camp, Alt Empordà and Vallespir.

Today, there are 15,000 different varieties of cherry, with more every year. However, consumers clearly prefer large, sweet cherries with bright red skins, and these are the varieties that predominate in Catalonia. The most common variety grown in Baix Llobregat, for example, was originally from California.

An advantage of the cherry is that it is easily conserved. Cherries can be sun-dried like tomatoes and then preserved in glass jars. All you have to do then is add water and use them for stews or desserts.

Another technique for preserving cherries is to crystallise them by cooking them in syrup. Leave them to rest for 24 hours and repeat the operation 10 days. Cherries are also good for g jam. The technique is simple enough and consists of cooking the fruit without their stones with plenty of sugar (three times as much as the weight of the fruit) until the correct consistency has been achieved.

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