Cherries mark the arrival of spring03-04-2018
Etat des lieux général
Cherries are the first stone fruit of the year and will keep gourmet foodies content right through until the end of July.
The cherry on top of the gateau
Sweet or tart, cherries can be enjoyed freshly-picked from the tree or purchased at the market or supermarket. They make a popular dessert too. Think cherry tart, clafoutis (see recipe), cakes, and fruit salads. They also make a delicious accompaniment with savoury dishes too, either as a relish or in sauces served with poultry, game, pork or veal. In summer, they are a heavenly match with crunchy raw vegetables or in salads.
Variety is the spice of life
In total, and much dependent on the area of production, France sells around 15 varieties of cherry. The Burlat variety, accounting for 30% of french cherry production, kicks off the season. A relatively large cherry, it is premium quality, packed full of flavour, juicy and sweet. The Summit variety comes into season 15-20 days later and accounts for 11% of production. With its heart-shaped appearance, and soft, juicy, yet firm texture, it is a very popular variety.
With the first signs of fine weather, cherries are picked, sorted and packed by hand before arriving on shelves up and down the country. France is a major cherry producer; the fourth largest in Europe accounting for 52,000 tonnes in 2014 alone. Production is essentially concentrated in the sunny south (see map).
The story of the cherry
– Legend has it that migrating birds would disperse cherry stones along their flight path, which explains how cherry trees grow in the wild almost everywhere in the world.
– King Louis XV loved cherries so much that he was instrumental in their democratisation, actively promoting the discovery of new varieties. As for Napoleon, he was so passionate about their taste, he even named one of the varieties in his honour.
Top tips for storing cherries in tip top condition
Cold storage is key to keeping cherries fresh for a few days, ideally in the vegetable compartment of a fridge. Remember to take them out around an hour before eating to release all their delicious aromas and flavours. To conserve them in their natural state, sterilised jars are a good solution, providing delicious jams, compotes and fruit in liqueurs to help you through the cold winter months. To keep them longer, cherries can also be stored in the freezer; just rinse, drain, remove the stems and the stone, and place in the freezer on a tray until frozen. They can then be bagged, dated and defrosted and enjoyed whenever, as fresh as a daisy!