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Feijoas »« Boysenberries

Cherries

Prunus avium, Prunus cerasus


Description

What Christmas dinner is complete without a big bowl of cherries to go with your chocolates and candy canes? If you need a reason for eating seasonally, look no further than cherries. These are a true seasonal treat.

There are a huge variety of types of cherries, with fruiting time depending on the variety, but most eating cherries are derived from the wild, or sweet, cherry (Prunus cerasus) and the sour cherry (Prunus avium).

Cherries are high in antioxidants that help prevent diseases such as cancer, as well as melatonin, which regulates the body’s circadian rhythm. As well, cherries are a good source of vitamin C, fibre, iron, and potassium.

Cherries are definitely best purchased loose, with the best ones picked out one by one. Choose unblemished, shiny fruits that are large and heavy – cherries gain 30 percent of their flavour and volume in the week before they’re picked and they don’t continue to ripen after harvest. Leave behind any that are soft, wrinkled, bruised, or spotted.

Cherries with their stalks still attached will keep longer, and are a good indication of the age of the fruit. The best cherry stalks are those that are soft and pliable; if the stalk is brown and brittle the fruit has been sitting around for a while. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should leave behind nice-looking cherries that don’t have stalks, just use those ones first. Store them in the fridge in a plastic bag for up to three days.

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History

Cherries have been cultivated for centuries, with both species from which most varieties are derived originating in Europe and western Asia. They probably ended up in Britain courtesy of the Romans.

They were taken to the United States by colonists in the 17th century, where they’re now grown in large amounts. The first Australian commercial cherry orchard was planted in the 1870s in New South Wales, which is still the major cherry growing area in Australia. Cherries in New Zealand are most commonly grown in Otago, and have been grown commercially for at least 50 years.

Uses

There’s not much you need to do with cherries but devour them straight from a large bowl, with a spare saucer for the stones.

However, you might want to be a bit more adventurous. Most cherries you’ll buy for eating are sweet cherries, which can be stoned and halved, and added to muffins and cakes. If you want to make pies or jams, sour cherries are best, and you’ll probably need to go directly to a grower for those.

Facts

Cherry blossoms are an important part of Japanese culture, appearing in art, at royal palaces, and on coins. There are more than 200 cultivars of cherry found in Japan; most of these are cultivated for the blossom, however, and don’t bear fruit.

The wood from cherry trees is popular with woodturners for its look, and it also makes great firewood.



Feijoas »« Boysenberries

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