Strutting their stuff on the catwalk this week are Cheeky Cherries. With a short season from June to July, these wonderful little fruits shout from the tree tops that summer is well and truly here.
Wild cherries are found in hedgerows all across the UK, and as all varieties are edible (although some are quite sour, oh and the seeds are poisonous, so try not to eat those), they are a great fruit to forage. Even for the most novice wild foodie.
Of course you needn’t be as adventurous as that in order to sample their delights, as almost every shop I go into is bursting with them at the moment. Be warned though, roadside vendors aren’t always as scrupulous as you might imagine and could be selling ‘local’ cherries fresh off the boat from spain.
If in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask for details about the farm they were grown in. Any lies will soon unravel.
Duncan’s Five Favourite things about cherries
- May make you look younger. Rich in antioxidants and Polyphenols, a compound that helps to fight cell damage.
- May improve your sex life. Tart cherries can enhance performance and aid recovery. Ok, so the study was carried out on 27 long distance runners, but it’s up to you what marathon sessions you preffere.
- High in vitamins and minerals. Cherries are a good source of vitamins C, K and B as well as Manganese, Copper and Magnesium.
- They have a long and industrious history. It is thought that they originated in the region between the black and Caspian seas, but they have been cultivated for longer than history records. They were introduced to the UK by order of Henry 8th in the 16th century and were first grown here in Teynham, near Sittingbourne, Kent.
- Cherries are delicious and versatile. They can be used in all sorts of recipes, both sweet and savoury, from jams and compotes to stews and marinades and don’t forget cherry brandy! Why not amaze yourself by trying my fabulous cherry BBQ sauce recipe below.
Cherry BBQ Sauce.
This quick and easy sauce can be used both as a marinade for meats such as pork or chicken, or as an alternative to ketchup. As it contains a fair amount of vinegar and sugar it should keep in the fridge for a good three weeks, and freezes really well, so you can enjoy that beautiful cherry flavour well past the season.
1 medium red onion, diced
A large knob of butter (with a little cooking oil to stop it from burning)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 large punnet of fresh, local cherries, pitted and chopped
A good squirt of ketchup
3 tablespoons of dark brown sugar
1 cup of cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons of mustard.
1) On a low heat melt the butter with the oil in a medium sized saucepan.
2) Chuck in the diced onion, mix around a bit and put the lid on, keeping the heat low for 10 minutes, or until the onion is soft and translucent. (this is when I would usually pit and chop the cherries)
3) Mix the crushed garlic in with the onion. Replace the lid and keep the heat low for a minute or two.
4) Chuck in the cherries and the rest of the ingredients. Mix it up, then put the lid back on and crank the temperature right up.
5) As soon as the mixture comes to the boil reduce the temperature right back to low and take the lid off. Give it a stir and allow to simmer, stirring regularly, until the sauce is thick and the cherries are soft.
6) Allow to cool. If you want a smooth sauce blitz it in the whizzer. If you have a smoking gun use it to infuse applewood smoke (or cherry wood if you have it) into the sauce as it cools. If not you can buy liquid smoke, but this is optional.
7) Marinade meat at least two hours before cooking, fish or veg half an hour. Make sure you save some to use as a dipping sauce. Don’t eat any sauce that has been in contact with raw meat.