I love cherries. The taste of all that delicious juice bursting into your mouth as you bite into them, and the happy childhood memories of having fun using that juice to make ‘lipstick’, as well as making earrings with the ones on twin stalks.
Luscious British cherries are in season right now. And as well as being a very portable, refreshing snack, a handful of cherries counts as one of your five a day.
High in vitamins A and C, they contain antioxidants, which are considered to reduce inflammatory joint pain, stave off cancer, and fight insomnia. They are even claimed to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. A very palatable way of lettings one’s food be one’s medicine!
Drinking concentrated cherry juice is also beneficial. It can help protect against gout, improve your quality of sleep and can help to prevent cardiovascular disease. More and more personal trainers are introducing concentrated cherry juice into their routines, as it’s also been proven to help muscles heal faster after exercise.
Superb as a raw food, cherries can also be used to make beautiful pies and crumbles, as well as a traditional French clafoutis; with the added fun of playing counting rhymes with the stones.
Sadly, along with many orchard fruits, cherries almost disappeared from the British agricultural landscape. Cherry orchards, or gardens as they are called, are typically quite small and farmers found it simply wasn’t profitable to grow them and make enough money from their short season.
In fact, researching for this article, I found far more references to schools, hospitals, care homes and therapeutic communities with Cherry Orchard as their name. A reflection, perhaps, of the prior use of the land, or maybe (more hopefully) an acknowledgement of cherries’ preventative and healing powers.
Making a comeback…
However, in recent years, there has been somewhat of a revival in the fortunes of cherry orchards as people begin to care so much more about fewer food miles, supporting local producers and eating fresh food with maximum nutritional values. New orchards are beginning to spring up.
In Kent and Bedfordshire, traditional cherry-growing counties, farms are starting to offer cherries for sale online, and community orchards are beginning to flourish where the public can own or rent a cherry tree. This is a lovely way of reintroducing a traditional crop and bringing people together in food production.
Brogdale, the home of the National Fruit Trees Collection in Kent, preserves 300 varieties of cherry tree, so if you fancy growing one in your garden there is sure to be one that’s just right for your garden’s soil, aspect and size. A E Housman described the cherry tree in his poem A Shropshire Lad as the ‘loveliest of trees’. In fact, Morello cherries, while a bit bitter eaten raw, make a beautiful cooking cherry and are one of the few fruiting trees which can be trained against a north facing fence or wall.